The day was inevitable but it certainly has come quicker than imagined. One assumption by many stateside is that China or perhaps U.S. exports the most merchandise in the world, but in fact it has been Germany. [May 21, 2008: Who is the World's Largest Merchandise Exporter? Not China. Or the US]
Turning bolts, Germans were told - often by other Germans - had no future in Germany. The persistence of heavy manufacturing symbolized the country's inability or unwillingness to transform itself into a modern, services-oriented economy like the United States or Britain, two oft-used yardsticks.
Today, the manufacturing sector in Germany is growing as a proportion of the country's total economic output, and Germany looks set to outpace far larger economies like China and the United States as the world's largest merchandise exporter for the fourth year running.
The critics have one point in that the Germans are dependent on the 'old economy,' said Andreas Rees, chief Germany economist in Munich for UniCredit. But paradoxically that is an incredible strength of Germany right now.
Germans had been bracing for this day eventually coming, but the day is now (accounting for future currency fluctuations of course)
- Chinese exports narrowly edged ahead of those from Germany in the first six months of the year, new figures showed yesterday, in a fresh sign that Germany's status as the world's leading exporter is at risk.
- Germany has long been braced for the much faster-growing Chinese economy to assume its world export champion title.
- China exported goods worth $521.7bn in the first six months of this year, while Germany's total was $521.6bn, the Geneva-based World Trade Organisation reported.
- Such export figures are closely followed in Germany, Europe's largest economy, which has national elections next month. Sales of its industrial products have largely powered the economic growth in recent years, and throughout the economic crisis the government of Angela Merkel, chancellor, has defended strongly the country's export-driven economic model.
- However, the likely value of German and Chinese exports for the full year remains uncertain and will depend heavily on exchange rate movements in coming months. A strong euro would help flatter Germany's figure.