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flag Germany Germany: Trade profile

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

 

Foreign Trade in Figures

Trade represents 81% of Germany’s GDP (World Bank 2020, down from 87.6% one year earlier), and the country is both the world’s third-largest importer and exporter. The country is by far the world’s largest exporter of automobiles (19.3% of total exported cars worldwide). In 2020, the four largest groups of exported goods made up almost half of the country’s exports: vehicles and vehicle parts (15.5%), machinery (14.5%), chemical products (9.3%) and computer/electrical and optical equipment (9.1%). The main imported goods were computer/electrical and optical equipment (11.2%), vehicles and vehicle parts (10.8%), chemical products (7.8%), machinery (7.7%), electrical equipment (6.5%) and pharmaceuticals and similar products (6.3% - BMWi).

Germany’s primary trade partner is the European Union which accounted for 67.1% of exports and 65.3% of imports (BMWi). Accounting for 8.6% of German exports, the U.S. remained Germany’s most important export market in 2020, followed closely by China (8%), France (7.5%) and the Netherlands (6.4%). Imports came chiefly from China (11.4%), ahead of the Netherlands and the U.S. (7.7% and 6.7%, respectively). Germany continues to be the “most open” economy of the G7 countries.

Germany’s surplus from trade in goods in 2020 contrasted with a deficit from trade in services: the country exported goods worth USD 1.380 billion (a decrease of 7.3% year-on-year), importing a total of USD 1.170 billion (-5.1% - WTO). Germany is a net importer of commercial services: in 2020, the country exported USD 305 billion worth of services, while imports were slightly higher, at USD 307 billion.
However, the country’s trade balance is structurally positive: in 2020, Germany’s current account surplus declined again, falling to 7% of GDP, but remained the highest ratio in the world (second in nominal terms, after China). 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).

 
Foreign Trade Values 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 1,054,8911,162,9071,284,3531,233,9781,170,441
Exports of Goods (million USD) 1,339,6471,448,1911,560,5391,489,4121,380,647
Imports of Services (million USD) 312,074329,246371,207369,368307,130
Exports of Services (million USD) 272,738303,366344,033341,078305,169

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 84.887.288.487.681.1
Trade Balance (million USD) 279,768288,053266,362242,479217,296
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 256,402260,592245,933219,470219,099
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 4.55.23.92.9-8.6
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 2.54.92.31.1-9.3
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 38.740.141.141.037.7
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 46.147.247.346.643.4

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

 
Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 9.45.94.33.63.0
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 8.66.94.03.73.4

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2020
United States 8.6%
China 8.0%
France 7.5%
Netherlands 6.4%
United Kingdom 5.5%
See More Countries 64.0%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2020
China 11.5%
Netherlands 7.5%
United States 6.7%
Poland 5.7%
France 5.5%
See More Countries 63.1%

Source: Comtrade, last available data

 

Main Products

1,382.9 bn USD of products exported in 2020
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) 8.8%
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. 3.9%
Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic...Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic, prophylactic or diagnostic uses; antisera and other blood fractions and modified immunological products, whether or not obtained by means of biotechnological processes; vaccines, toxins, cultures of micro-organisms (excl. yeasts) and similar products 2.4%
Powered aircraft e.g. helicopters and aeroplanes;...Powered aircraft e.g. helicopters and aeroplanes; spacecraft, incl. satellites, and suborbital and spacecraft launch vehicles 1.5%
See More Products 79.0%
1,171.4 bn USD of products imported in 2020
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) 5.5%
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) 2.9%
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. 2.8%
Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic...Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic, prophylactic or diagnostic uses; antisera and other blood fractions and modified immunological products, whether or not obtained by means of biotechnological processes; vaccines, toxins, cultures of micro-organisms (excl. yeasts) and similar products 2.4%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 2.3%
See More Products 84.0%

Source: Comtrade, last available data

 
 

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

 

Main Services

287.5 bn USD of services exported in 2018
31.26%
22.32%
12.96%
11.65%
8.24%
5.34%
4.72%
1.83%
0.91%
0.78%
304.8 bn USD of services imported in 2018
29.91%
24.77%
21.39%
10.67%
5.11%
2.83%
2.17%
1.92%
0.75%
0.48%

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available 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 available data.

 
 

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

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Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Member of 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 of the International Coffee Agreement 2007
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.
Look Up the Other Member Countries And Read the Web Pages of the World Customs Organization Devoted to the ATA Carnet.
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.
The UNCTAD Website Allows You to Read the TIR Convention, See the List of Member Countries And to Find Further Information.
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 Zones
There are four free-trade zones in Germany established and operated under EU law: Bremerhaven, Cuxhaven, Deggendorf and Duisburg.
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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Learn more about How to Export to Germany on Globaltrade.net, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

 

Standards

National Standards Organisations
German Institute for Standardisation
DKE German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies of DIN and VDE
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)
Associations of Standards Users
German Committee of Standards Users

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