Germany was the world's leading exporter again in 2007, staving off a challenge from fast-growing China despite the impact of a strong euro on its competitiveness. "Made in Germany" is still a strong selling point, and exporters forestalled a Chinese surge to claim the top spot for the fifth straight year with a total value of 969 billion euros (US$1.4 trillion), a gain of 8.5% from 2006, official figures showed.
China sold 1.22 trillion dollars' worth of goods abroad, according to the Chinese trade ministry's Internet site.The World Trade Organization (WTO) forecast last year that China would surpass Germany in 2009.
Among well-known German exports, automobiles lead the way, with 4.3 million vehicles sold abroad under nameplates that range from Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes to Ford and General Motors' Opel brand.
Another German strength is machine tools, which racked up foreign sales of 138 billion euros last year. Machines used to make other machines were particularly sought after in eastern Europe, Russia and oil-exporting countries.
Especially in southern and southwestern Germany, small- and medium-sized enterprises that are often family owned have managed to carve out strong positions in niche markets. Examples include G.W. Barth, the world leader in machines used to make chocolate, and Baader-Gruppe, which produces machines that process fish.
"In the long term, however, more than 1.3 billion Chinese will outperform 82 million Germans in terms of exports," UniCredit economist Alexander Koch wrote in a research note. The United Nations Development Program has said that will happen next year."The expansion in the export sector should also continue in 2008 -- noticeably softer than in previous years, but still at a solid pace," Koch said.
In terms of the trade surplus, Berlin had an increase of 40 billion euros last year to 199 billion euros. That compared with a chronic U.S. trade deficit, which stood at $63.1 billion in November, and the record French deficit of 39 billion euros announced this week.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008