Which country contributes the most to exports?


The German economy is to a large extent export-oriented. Around every fourth job in Germany depends on exports. At the same time, as a country poor in raw materials, Germany is also dependent on imports - especially in the energy sector. Despite this import dependency, goods exports in Germany have been higher than goods imports for decades. And in the years 2014 to 2019 new record surpluses were achieved in the trade balance: the value of exported goods was more than 210 billion euros above the value of imported goods in all six years.


According to the Federal Statistical Office, Germany exported goods to the value of 1,328 billion euros in 2019 and imported goods to the value of 1,104 billion euros in return - the value of exports and imports has never been higher. Overall, goods exports and imports increased by 5.3 and 4.8 percent annually from 1980 to 2019.

However, this development was halted for the time being by the corona pandemic: In 2020, exports were 1,205 billion euros and imports were 1,025 billion euros - compared to 2019, this corresponded to a decline in exports of 9.3 percent and imports of 7.1 percent . In the case of the foreign trade balance, the minus was even greater at 19.8 percent. In the last four decades, there has only been a similar development in the global financial and economic crisis of 2008/2009: The crisis-related declines in exports and imports from 2008 to 2009 of 18.4 and 17.5 percent, respectively, fell even higher out. However, between 2009 and 2010 both exports (plus 18.5 percent) and imports (plus 19.9 percent) increased very sharply and due to the again above-average growth in exports and imports from 2010 to 2011 (plus 11.5 percent) or 13.2 percent), new highs were achieved for imports and exports in 2011.

In 2019 - based on all goods - 34.6 percent of Germany's domestic demand was covered by imports. The foreign trade quota also shows how important foreign trade is for Germany. The foreign trade quota corresponds to the percentage share of goods exports and imports of a state / region in the respective gross domestic product (GDP). According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Germany's foreign trade quota rose from 43.8 percent in 1990 to 70.5 percent in 2008. The global financial and economic crisis led to a significant decline in the foreign trade quota to 60, 2 percent in 2009. However, at 72.9 percent, the pre-crisis level was already exceeded in 2011. In 2019, Germany's foreign trade quota was 71.3 percent.

In 2008, Germany was just able to defend its title of "export world champion" against China - Germany exported more goods six times in a row than any other country. In 2009, however, Germany was clearly replaced by China. According to UNCTAD, China was able to continue to expand its lead over Germany, to a trillion US dollars in 2019. In addition, in the years 2010 to 2019 the USA was again ahead of Germany - in 2019 the difference was 154 billion US dollars .

A completely different ranking emerges when the per capita exports of goods are compared: With this approach, the trade hubs Hong Kong and Singapore were at the forefront in 2019. This was followed by the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. According to this calculation, Germany was still in the top 20 of 191 states / areas with more than 100,000 inhabitants (15th place) and was thus far ahead of the USA (46th place) and China (81st place). Accordingly, Germany accounted for an above-average 7.9 percent of goods exports worldwide in 2019 - with a share of 1.1 percent of the world's population.

In all years since 1952, more goods have been exported from Germany than imported. In the seventeen years from 2004 to 2020, the trade surplus was 16 times more than 150 billion euros. And in 2009, despite the global financial and economic crisis and Germany's high export dependency, the trade balance was positive (139 billion euros). According to the Federal Statistical Office, the highest trade surplus to date was achieved in 2016 at 248.9 billion euros. The years 2017 and 2015 accounted for the second and third highest surplus (2017: 248 billion euros / 2015: 244 billion euros). Due to the corona pandemic, the foreign trade balance fell from 2019 to 2020 from 224 to 180 billion euros (minus 19.8 percent).

The high trade surpluses make a major contribution to the fact that Germany's current account has been consistently positive since 2002. The current account summarizes various balances - including the trade and services balance. Germany's current account surplus rose between 2003 and 2007 from 31.3 to 171.5 billion euros. In the crisis years of 2008 and 2009, high surpluses of 145.0 and 142.7 billion euros, respectively, were achieved. By 2012/2013, the current account surplus increased again to 195.7 and 184.4 billion euros.

In 2014, the current account surplus was more than 200 billion euros (210.9 billion euros) for the first time. In 2016, the previous record was reached with a current account surplus of 266.7 billion euros. Due to the corona pandemic, the current account surplus fell from 2019 to 2020 from 258.6 to 231.9 billion euros. According to the Deutsche Bundesbank, the surplus of the goods trade balance in 2020 was 189.4 billion euros. The balance of primary incomes was also positive in 2020 (plus 92.5 billion euros). In contrast to previous years, in which the balance of services was clearly negative, it was up slightly in 2020 (EUR 1.6 billion). As in previous years, the balance of secondary income was negative in 2020 (minus 51.6 billion euros).

Data Source

Federal Statistical Office: Foreign Trade; United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD): Online database: UNCTADstat; Deutsche Bundesbank: Balance of payments statistics

Terms, methodological notes or reading aids

According to the current status, the Corona pandemic continue to have a significant impact on the development of foreign trade.

Current data on the Exports you'll find here...

Current data on the Imports you'll find here...

Current data for Foreign trade balance you'll find here...

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Information on Energy dependency rate get here ...

The Import dependency rate shows the extent to which domestic demand is covered by imports. The quota corresponds to the ratio of imports to the gross domestic product (GDP) adjusted for the foreign trade balance - the difference between exports and imports.

The trade balance is related to a period and indicates the balance of goods exports and imports of a country or a group of countries. If there is a trade balance surplus or deficit, the creditors 'or debtors' positions vis-à-vis the rest of the world increase. Since the trade balance is a partial balance of the current account, an imbalance in the trade balance can be offset by the balances of other partial balances.

The Current account summarizes the trade balance, the services balance (balance of exports and imports of services) and the balance of primary and secondary income. The partial balance of the Primary income includes cross-border payments from employment and investments, including interest and dividend payments. Under the Secondary income This is understood to mean regular payments that are not directly matched by the other side - for example, transfers of foreign workers employed in Germany to their home countries, payments by the state to international organizations such as the United Nations or services within the framework of German development cooperation.

The gross domestic product (BIP) measures the value of domestically produced goods and services (added value), insofar as these are not used as intermediate inputs for the production of other goods and services. GDP is currently the most important macroeconomic measure of production.

China excluding Hong Kong and Macau.