The world’s third-largest exporter after China and the United States, Germany shipped US$1.378 trillion worth of goods around the globe in 2020. That dollar amount reflects a 3.4% improvement since 2016 but a -7.3% drop from 2019 to 2020.
That dollar figure represents roughly 7.4% compared to overall global exports estimated at $18.709 trillion one year earlier in 2019.
Applying a continental lens, 66.1% of Germany exports by value were delivered to European countries while 19.1% were sold to Asian importers. Germany shipped another 10.3% worth of goods to North America.
Smaller percentages went to Africa (1.7%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.4%) then Oceania led by Australia (0.9%).
Germany’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Germany’s top trading partners. That is, countries that imported the most German shipments by dollar value during 2020. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total German exports.
- United States: US$118.8 billion (8.6% of Germany’s total exports)
- China: $109.8 billion (8%)
- France: $103.8 billion (7.5%)
- Netherlands: $89.1 billion (6.5%)
- United Kingdom: $76.4 billion (5.5%)
- Poland: $74 billion (5.4%)
- Italy: $69.1 billion (5%)
- Austria: $66.7 billion (4.8%)
- Switzerland: $64.8 billion (4.7%)
- Belgium: $49.4 billion (3.6%)
- Czech Republic: $44.9 billion (3.3%)
- Spain: $42.9 billion (3.1%)
- Hungary: $28.1 billion (2%)
- Sweden: $26.7 billion (1.9%)
- Russia: $26.4 billion (1.9%)
Over seven-tenths (71.9%) of German exports in 2020 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
China reduces its purchases of Germany’s exports by 2.2% from 2019 to 2020, ahead of the 1.8% increase for Switzerland and 0.6% uptick for Poland.
Reductions ranged from -4% for importers in the Netherlands up to -13.6% for the United Kingdom.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
Germany incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- China: -US$23.1 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2020)
- Ireland: -$15.3 billion
- Vietnam: -$8.3 billion
- Bangladesh: -$5.9 billion
- Czech Republic: -$4.8 billion
- Japan: -$4.4 billion
- Malaysia: -$4.3 billion
- Hungary: -$3.4 billion
- Slovakia: -$2.3 billion
- South Africa: -$2.2 billion
Among Germany’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, German deficits with South Africa (up 573%), Hungary (up 81.1%) and China (up 46.7%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Germany’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Germany to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Overall, Germany posted a trade surplus equal to $205.9 billion in 2020. That dollar amount of black ink represents a -17.9% downtick from the $250.7-billion surplus one year earlier.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
Germany incurred the highest trade surpluses at the expense of the following countries.
- United States: US$41.4 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2020)
- France: $39.3 billion
- United Kingdom: $37.3 billion
- Austria: $22.4 billion
- Switzerland: $12.5 billion
- Belgium: $10.1 billion
- Sweden: $9.9 billion
- Russia: $8.8 billion
- Denmark: $8.5 billion
- Italy: $7.6 billion
Among Germany’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, German surpluses with Switzerland (up 19.2%), Italy (up 9%) and United Arab Emirates (up 3%) grew from 2019 to 2020.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Germany’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Germany to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
German Companies Servicing Trading Partners
Over fifty German corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of major German export companies.
- Adidas (apparel/accessories)
- Allianz (diversified insurance)
- BASF (diversified chemicals)
- Bayer (diversified chemicals)
- BMW Group (cars, trucks)
- Continental (automotive parts)
- Daimler (cars, trucks)
- Fresenius (medical equipment, supplies)
- Heidelberg Cement (construction materials)
- Henkel (household/personal care items)
- Linde (diversified chemicals)
- Merck (pharmaceuticals)
- Siemens (conglomerate, engineering)
- Volkswagen Group (cars, trucks)
According to IMPORTERS.com listings for German suppliers, the following are also examples of companies that ship products from Germany to its trading partners around the globe. Shown within parenthesis are products that the German business provides.
- 7Trade (mobile phones)
- Euro Car Export Ltd (vehicles)
- Flaskamp GmbH (liquid soap, washing powder)
- IMarketing Skirde Ltd (sports bags, garments)
- Kareva Marketing GmbH (calcium chloride, other drilling chemicals)
- Kgz Ersatzteile (diesel fuel lift pumps)
- Merbstrade (crude oil)
- Origiparts GmbH & Co. KG (engines, electrical parts)
- Tieig Industrial Group (industrial adhesives)
- Weser Apotheke (pharmaceuticals)
See also Germany’s Top 10 Imports, Germany’s Top 10 Exports, Top German Trade Balances and Germany’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on February 22, 2021
Forbes, Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 22, 2021
IMPORTERS.com The Online Market for G20 Importers, Germany Import Export Directory. Accessed on February 22, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on February 22, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 22, 2021