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US overtakes France as Germany's biggest customer

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A car body at BMW's Dingolfing factory in Lower Bavaria bears a note stamped "US". Photo: DPA
16:56 CET+01:00
The United States overtook France to become Germany's most important trading partner last year for the first time since the mid-1970s, official data showed on Wednesday.

"According to provisional data, goods worth a total €173.2 billion ($188 billion) changed hands between Germany and the US in 2015," the federal statistics office Destatis said in a statement.

"That meant the US was Germany's most important trading partner in 2015, followed by France with €170.1 billion worth of goods and the Netherlands with €167.6 billion," the statement said.

"While France is still fighting its way out of the crisis, the USA has showed solid economic growth in recent years," German Chambers of Commerce and Industry foreign trade chief Volker Treier told The Local by email.

In terms of exports, the US was the biggest foreign buyer of German-made goods in 2015, with exports amounting to €113.9 billion last year.

"Germany is an important partner because of its strong industrial core and its expertise in machine and facility building and the cart and chemical industries," Bernhard Mattes, President of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Germany, told The Local.

"Any country that needs to build out downstream industry need the right tools."

A container ship plying the Rhine river as it passes through Strasbourg, on the French-German border. Photo: DPA

Meanwhile, exports to France, the country to which Germany has exported the most every year since 1961, amounted to €103 billion.

"Despite the change at the top, the European internal market remains of extraordinary importance for the German economy," Treier added. "Seven of our most important partners come from the European Union.

"That shows that we need to maintain the internal market. Border controls and other new restrictions would hit the German economy hard."

SEE ALSO: Abolishing open borders 'could cost Germany €235 billion'

Push for free trade

"For German industry with its many medium-sized companies, the USA is becoming more and more important as a key market," Stefan Mair of the Federation of German Industry (BDI) said.

"We should strengthen transatlantic relations," he added, calling for the planned US-EU free trade agreement TTIP to be completed as quickly as possible.

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"A comprehensive free trade agreement between the EU and the United States would increase demand for German goods and services that much more," AmCham President Mattes agreed.

France has always been seen as Germany's primary trading partner in the past, underlining the close political and economic ties between Europe's number one and number two economies.

But the weakness of the euro against the dollar and the pick-up in the US economy has boosted Germany's transatlantic trade.

On the import side, Germany imported the most goods from China last year - 91.5 billion euros in all. The Netherlands and France followed in second and third place with imports of 88.1 billion euros and 67 billion euros respectively, Destatis calculated.

additional reporting by Tom Barfield

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