Dec 30, 2009 | 13:27 GMT

3 mins read

Germany: An Examination of Exports

According to several Dec. 28 media reports, China is set to eclipse Germany in 2009 as the world's largest exporter by volume. The news is no surprise, as China and Germany have been jostling for the top exporter spot since 2007. In 2008, Germany's exports just barely topped China's, with Berlin's total exports valued at $1.46 trillion, or 45 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), compared to Beijing's $1.42 trillion, or 40 percent of GDP. But the announcement gives STRATFOR the opportunity to explore the definition of Germany's exports. The most obvious point is that Germany is part of the EU's single market — an economic union of 27 member states in which restrictions on the movement of capital, labor, goods and services have been almost completely eliminated. Furthermore, Berlin is a eurozone member and dominates the bloc's monetary policy because it is the eurozone's largest economy and because it essentially controls the European Central Bank's policy making. Germany's exports to the eurozone can therefore hardly be compared to the Chinese exports to the United States or Japan, for example. They are part of an intra-eurozone trade that cannot be compared to global exports of other countries. (click here to enlarge image) Of Germany's total exports in 2008, 43 percent went to the eurozone, 63 percent to the European Union (which includes the eurozone), and 37 percent to the rest of the world. When viewed this way, non-EU exports only account for 16.5 percent of Germany's GDP, though that number grows to 25.7 percent of GDP if Germany's exports to EU member states outside the eurozone are considered. Ultimately, Germany still depends on exports. However, its exports to the EU and eurozone cannot be considered global since those markets are practically indistinguishable from its domestic market. This actually gives Germany an advantage over global exporters like Japan and China, since a sizable portion of its exports is destined for markets with which Germany has much in common or outright controls through its leadership in the EU and eurozone. But though it has a degree of control over its export markets in the EU, as a major exporter of high-end, capital-intensive goods, Germany is also vulnerable to the vagaries of global investment demand and the availability of capital.

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