Cars, medications and automotive parts or accessories were major factors behind Germany’s highest international trade surpluses by product. The United States, France and the United Kingdom placed as the top 3 trade partners from which Germany earned the highest positive trade balances.
Germany’s overall trade surplus for all products equaled US$205.9 billion in 2020, down by -21.9% from $263.6 billion in 2013. Year over year, the $205.9 billion in black ink during 2020 represents a -17.9% decline from the $250.7 billion surplus that Germany generated one year ago in 2019.
To put Germany’s most recent $205.9 billion trade surplus metric into perspective, the country’s total external debt encompassing both public and private red ink equaled -$6.488 trillion at September 2020. Germany’s external debt is the equivalent of over 30 times the magnitude of its positive international trade balance.
Top German Trade Balances by Product and Country
The following 10 leading products generated a surplus subtotal of $162.8 billion for Germany in its global trade during 2020. Metrics listed below highlight Germany’s strongest competitive advantages over worldwide trading partners.
- Cars: US$57 billion (Down -20% since 2019)
- Medication mixes in dosage: $26.5 billion (Up 2.2%)
- Automobile parts/accessories: $21.4 billion (Down -4.5%)
- Miscellaneous aircraft, spacecraft (e.g. helicopters, launchers): $14.5 billion (Down -37.7%)
- Miscellaneous machinery: $10.7 billion (Down -11.8%)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $7.1 billion (Up 3.3%)
- Transmission shafts, gears, clutches: $6.8 billion (Down -2%)
- Taps, valves, similar appliances: $6.5 billion (Down -8.9%)
- Lower-voltage switches, fuses: $6.2 billion (Down -3.1%)
- Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines: $6 billion (Down -4.2%)
Among the top product-specific trade balances, the sole growers from 2019 to 2020 were centrifuges, filters and purifiers (up 3.3%) and medication mixes in dosage (up 2.2%).
Positive trade balances declined at the severest pace year over year for miscellaneous aircraft and spacecraft (down -37.7%), cars (down -20%) and miscellaneous machinery (dpwn -11.8%).
The 10 major products below accumulated a deficit subtotal of -$101 billion for Germany in international trade during 2020. Germany has demonstrated the severest competitive disadvantages in the exports and imports of the following commodities.
- Crude oil: -US$27.4 billion (Down -32.6% since 2019)
- Petroleum gases: -$14.9 billion (Down -16.7%)
- Heterocyclics, nucleic acids: -$12.6 billion (Down -2.7%)
- Computers, optical readers: -$11.5 billion (Up 22.4%)
- Phone system devices including smartphones: -$11.5 billion (Up 18.8%)
- Miscellaneous articles, dress patterns: -$6.2 billion (Up 2,289%)
- Processed petroleum oils: -$5.5 billion (Down -53.6%)
- TV receivers/monitors/projectors: -$4 billion (Up 3.9%)
- Precious metal waste, scrap: -$3.74 billion (Up 35%)
- Iron ores, concentrates: -$3.67 billion (Down -6.8%)
Germany’s red ink in global trade expanded the fastest from 2013 to 2020 for: miscellaneous articles and dress patterns (up 2,289%), precious metals waste and scrap (up 35%), computers including optical readers (up 22.4%) then phone system devices including smartphones (up 18.8%).
The three leading decliners generating increased product deficits were refined petroleum oils (down -53.6%), crude oil (down -32.6%) and petroleum gases (down -16.7%).
In 2020, Germany generated a robust surplus subtotal worth $197.7 billion at the expense of the following 10 trading partners.
- United States: US$41.4 billion (Down -21.9% since 2019)
- France: $39.3 billion (Down -13.2%)
- United Kingdom: $37.3 billion (Down -19%)
- Austria: $22.4 billion (Down -8.7%)
- Switzerland: $12.5 billion (Up 5.4%)
- Belgium: $10.1 billion (Up 65%)
- Sweden: $9.9 billion (Down -7.8%)
- Russia: $8.8 billion (Up 81.9%)
- Denmark: $8.5 billion (Up 2%)
- Italy: $7.6 billion (Down -36.9%)
Accelerating year over year were German trade surpluses with Russia (up 81.9%), Belgium (up 65%), Switzerland (up 5.4%) and Denmark (up 2%).
Germany’s positive net exports declined at the fastest pace with Italy (down -36.9%) the United States (down -21.9%) and the United Kingdom (down -19%).
Germany posted losing relationships with 65 trade partners in 2020. The following 10 trade partners caused Germany a -$61.6 billion deficit subtotal in 2020 from buying and selling exports and imports.
- China: -US$23.1 billion (Up 46.7% since 2019)
- Ireland: -$15.3 billion (Up 31.4%)
- Vietnam: -$8.3 billion (Up 37.2%)
- Bangladesh: -$5.9 billion (Up 3.6%)
- Czech Republic: -$4.8 billion (Up 24.7%)
- Japan: -$4.4 billion (Up 22.6%)
- Malaysia: -$4.3 billion (Up 21.5%)
- Hungary: -$3.4 billion (Up 81.1%)
- Slovakia: -$2.3 billion (Down -43.1%)
- South Africa: -$2.2 billion (Reversing a $5.8 billion surplus)
In addition to its reversal with South Africa, Germany’s country-specific trade deficits expanded most intensely from 2019 to 2020 with Hungary (up 81.8%), China (up 46.7%) and Vietnam (up 37.2%).
Germany trimmed the size of its negative trade balances with one top partner, namely Slovakia via a -43.1% reduction.
See also Germany’s Top 10 Imports, Germany’s Top Trading Partners, Germany’s Top 10 Exports and Germany’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on February 22, 2021
External Debt (for specified countries), CEIC Data. Accessed on February 22, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on February 22, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 22, 2021
Wikipedia, Economy of Germany. Accessed on February 22, 2021