flag Germany Germany: Trade profile

In this page: Foreign Trade in Figures | Trade Compliance | Standards

 

Foreign Trade in Figures

Trade represents 100% of Germany’s GDP (World Bank 2022, up from 89% one year earlier), and the country is both the world’s third-largest importer and exporter. Germany is by far the world’s largest exporter of automobiles: accounting for 15.4% of exports, automobiles and their parts were its main export product in 2022, with a value of around EUR 245 billion (Destatis). Machinery (13.3%) and chemical products (10.3%) ranked second and third, respectively. In the same year, the main imported goods were petroleum gas (4.6%), vehicles and vehicle parts (4.4%), and petroleum oils (4%).

In 2022, Germany’s primary export destination was the U.S. which accounted for 9.8% of the total, followed by France (7.4%), the Netherlands (7%), and China (6.7%). Imports came chiefly from China (12.8%), ahead of the Netherlands and the U.S. (7.6% and 6.2%, respectively). Overall, China was Germany's most important trading partner in 2022 for the seventh consecutive year (data Destatis). Germany continues to be the “most open” economy of the G7 countries.

The country’s trade balance is structurally positive. According to the latest figures from the national statistical office Destatis, in 2022, Germany saw a notable increase in both exports and imports: goods exported amounted to EUR 1,574 billion, marking a 14.1% rise, while imports totalled EUR 1,494.4 billion, reflecting a 24.1% increase compared to 2021. The foreign trade balance for 2022 recorded a surplus of EUR 79.7 billion, the lowest since 2000. This figure represents a significant decline (for the sixth consecutive year), with the export surplus more than halving compared to the 2021 surplus of EUR 175.3 billion, mostly due to the steep rise in the cost of energy imports. The main trade surpluses were recorded with the United States (EUR 62.8 billion), France (EUR 48.2 billion), and the United Kingdom (EUR 33.4 billion). In regards to Germany’s vast trade surplus, since 2014 the European Commission has encouraged the country to favour internal demand dynamics instead of exports, in order to mitigate the existing “macroeconomic imbalance” in the EU (as per the Commission rules, EU countries should not have an external trade surplus of more than 6% of their GDP). Germany is generally a net importer of commercial services; nevertheless, the trend reversed in recent years. In 2022, Germany had the highest value of services exports (EUR 408 billion) and services imports (EUR 438 billion) among the EU Member States (data Eurostat).
According to preliminary figures from Destatis, in the period Jan-Oct 2023, Germany exportes EUR 1,304.6 billion worth of goods, against EUR 596.8 billion in imports (-0.8% and -2.7% year-on-year, respectively). The EU accounted for 54.3% of total exports and 66.6% of imports.

 
Foreign Trade Values 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 1,284,3531,233,9781,171,7821,421,5121,570,752
Exports of Goods (million USD) 1,560,5391,489,4121,382,5331,636,7421,657,577
Imports of Services (million USD) 376,130376,540315,457387,181459,231
Exports of Services (million USD) 357,464356,277318,570387,553411,761

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO), Latest data available.

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 88.587.780.488.798.6
Trade Balance (million USD) 263,292245,868219,238230,563118,588
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 244,736230,802227,764236,60987,555
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 4.02.9-8.59.06.0
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 2.21.3-9.39.72.9
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 41.241.037.441.748.3
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 47.346.743.047.050.3

Source: World Bank, Latest data available.

 
Foreign Trade Forecasts 20232024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)2027 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 0.93.53.53.43.1
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 0.23.53.83.43.4

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook, Latest data available.

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2022
United States 9.8%
France 7.4%
Netherlands 6.9%
China 6.7%
Poland 5.8%
See More Countries 63.4%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2022
China 13.0%
Netherlands 7.1%
United States 6.3%
Poland 5.2%
Italy 4.8%
See More Countries 63.5%

Source: UN Comtrade Database, Latest data available.

 

Main Products

1,686.1 bn USD of products exported in 2022
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 9.3%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses "incl. those in the form of transdermal administration" or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 4.4%
Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles...Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, motor vehicles for the transport of goods and special purpose motor vehicles of heading 8701 to 8705, n.e.s. 3.7%
Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic...Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic, prophylactic or diagnostic uses; antisera and other blood fractions and immunological products, whether or not modified or obtained by means of biotechnological processes; vaccines, toxins, cultures of micro-organisms (excl. yeasts) and similar products 2.7%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 1.5%
See More Products 78.3%
1,588.9 bn USD of products imported in 2022
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 4.6%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 4.4%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 4.0%
Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic...Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic, prophylactic or diagnostic uses; antisera and other blood fractions and immunological products, whether or not modified or obtained by means of biotechnological processes; vaccines, toxins, cultures of micro-organisms (excl. yeasts) and similar products 2.7%
Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles...Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, motor vehicles for the transport of goods and special purpose motor vehicles of heading 8701 to 8705, n.e.s. 2.5%
See More Products 81.8%

Source: UN Comtrade Database, Latest data available.

 
 

To go further, check out our service Search import and export data.

 

Exchange Rate System

Local Currency
Euro (EUR)
Exchange Rate Regime
Floating exchange regime.
Level of Currency Instability
Very limited exchange risk since the euro is a major currency.
Exchange Rate on :

 
 
Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Euro (EUR) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 GBP 1.271.141.131.111.12

Source: World Bank, Latest data available.

 
 

Find out all the exchange rates daily on our service Currency converter.

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Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls For Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
Party to the International Coffee Agreement
International Economic Cooperation
Germany is a member of the following international economic organisations:  ICC, European Union, WTO, European Economic Area, G-6, G-7, G-8, G-10, G-20, IMF, OECD, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates Germany click here. International organisation membership of Germany is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
The complete and up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by Germany can be consulted here.
Party of the ATA Convention on Temporary Admissions and Use of the Carnets
Yes

As a Reminder, the ATA is a System Allowing the Free Movement of Goods Across Frontiers and Their Temporary Admission Into a Customs Territory With Relief From Duties and Taxes. The Goods Are Covered By a Single Document Known as the ATA Carnet That is Secured By an International Guarantee System.
Party of the TIR Convention
Yes

As a Reminder, the TIR Convention and its Transit Regime Contribute to the Facilitation of International Transport, Especially International Road Transport, Not Only in Europe and the Middle East, But Also in Other Parts of the World, Such as Africa and Latin America.
Accompanying Documents For Imports
Goods coming into a country of the European Union from another country in the Community are exempt from Customs duties and Customs formalities. The documents which must accompany goods moving between EU countries are the following:
- the commercial invoice (at least in duplicate, it must contain the intracommunity VAT number of the operator who is carrying out the delivery, that of the buyer by which he is identified in the country of delivery, it must mention "VAT exemption, art. 262 b-1 of the CGI")
- the delivery note (not compulsory)
- the sanitary and phytosanitary certificate (for live animals).
- the single administrative document (SAD) for trade with overseas Departments as well as with the Channel Islands and the Canaries.

In the case of temporary export within the EU, the ATA carnet and the Community carnet are no longer necessary. It is enough to keep a register listing the temporary shipments.

Concerning transport, no transport documents are required for intracommunity trade.
However, in the case of goods transiting or destined for one of the EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland), form T2 should be produced or a copy A (computerized transit). In the same way, goods transiting or destined for the Channel Islands or the Canaries must be accompanied by form T2F.

For a transaction outside the Community, you must add:
- Import licenses
- Certifications
- Single Customs Document (SAD)
- Health certificate

To go further, check out our service Shipping documents.

Free-trade zones
There are currently two free ports in Germany operating under EU law: Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven. The Bremerhaven area was subject to a number of expansions and it now totals an approximate area of 4,000,000 square meters; whereas the Freeport of Cuxhaven covers an area of about 147,800 square meters.
Kiel and Emden lost the free-trade zone status in 2010, same as for Hamburg in 2013.
For Further Information
German Customs
Bundesministerium der Finanzen (Federal Ministry of Finance)
Non Tariff Barriers
As a member of the European Union, Germany abides by the regulations and polices agreed to by all Community members.

There are several limitations to the EU’s (generally) liberal foreign trade policy, especially related to agricultural products. While the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) exists to favour the development of agriculture within the EU, the intervention mechanisms, subsidies, and quotas have been criticised for their cost to the EU and consumers. Moreover, agricultural products containing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) must be labelled as such on its packaging and the importation of beef that contains artificial beef hormones is prohibited. Other goods- medicines for human use, waste, plants, or live animals- may be prohibited or subject to specific regulation.
Sectors or Products For Which Commercial Disagreements Have Been Registered With the WTO
Agricultural products: cereals, bananas, poultry, geographical designation of origin, garlic, salmon, sardines, sugar, wine, corn, coffee, melted cheese, rice.
IT materials, films and television programs, merchant vessels, civil aircraft, steel and cotton.
Assessment of Commercial Policy
German commercial policy, as seen by the WTO
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the United States

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Standards

National Standards Organisations
Association for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies
Integration in the International Standards Network
At the European level:
- CEN, European Committee for Standardisation
- CENELEC, European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation
- European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)

At the International level:
-
International Standards Organisation (ISO)
- International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)

- International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

German standards are often used as the basis for the European standardisation system.

Obligation to Use Standards
The German Institute for Standardization is a private not-for-profit organization which administers and co-ordinates the private sector thanks to the establishment of a voluntary system of standards and of compliance evaluation. As a member of the European Union, Germany applies the European standardization system.
Classification of Standards
CE, DIN, ISO
Assessment of the System of Standardization
The consumer of products for the general public does not focus on standards, although they are perceived as a quality assurance. All household appliances have a standard. What is important is the guarantee period. Standards are, on the other hand, a determining factor for sub-contracted products. Quality standards in the manufacturing process are also a determining factor in sub-contracting.
Online Consultation of Standards
Beuth
The on-line catalog of European standards
The ISO catalog
The IEC catalog
Certification Organisations
German Institute for Standardisation
ISO International Organisation for Standardisation
Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.
VDE - Association for electrical, electronic and information technologies
Technischer Uberwachungsverein e.V. - TÜV (Technical Inspection Association)

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Latest Update: April 2024