Surprise! The United States Overtakes China as Germany’s Top Trading Partner


Germany’s Trading Throne: The U.S. Emerges as the New King

German and U.S. flags on a table

For years, China has reigned supreme as Germany’s undisputed trading partner. However, as 2024 unfurls, a new contender is making its presence known, quietly snatching the top spot: the United States.

Trade Dynamics in Flux

From January to March 2024, the combined value of German exports and imports to and from the U.S. reached an impressive 63 billion euros ( billion). Meanwhile, trade between Germany and China dipped to just below 60 billion euros, according to analysis by CNBC.

Key Factors Driving the Shift

“This seismic trade shift is the culmination of several factors,” says Carsten Brzeski, Global Head of Macro Research at ING Research.

  • Robust U.S. economic growth has fueled demand for German goods.
  • The drive to decouple from China, coupled with weakening domestic demand there and China’s increased local production capacity (particularly in the automotive sector), has reduced German exports to its former giant partner.

China’s Ascendance and Decline

China’s dominance as Germany’s primary trading nation has spanned years. However, the gap between China and the U.S. has gradually narrowed in recent times.

“The U.S. has been Germany’s larger export market than China for quite some time now,” remarks Holger Schmieding, Chief Economist at Berenberg Bank.

Schmieding further notes that, while the U.S. share of German exports has grown steadily, China’s share has witnessed a decline. He attributes this trend to China’s economic challenges and heightened competition from China’s subsidized firms.

“The game-changer now is that the U.S. is also gaining prominence as an import source for Germany,” Schmieding points out.

Germany’s Shifting China Strategy

Germany has embarked on a new China strategy, encouraging companies to mitigate their risks concerning China. While China remains a valued partner, Germany recognizes the heightened “systemic rivalry” characterizing their relationship.

Tensions have also escalated between the European Union and China, with investigations into respective trade practices and threats of retaliatory tariffs.

A recent survey by the Ifo Institute for Economic Research revealed a notable drop in companies dependent on China—from 46% in February 2022 to 37% in February 2024. This reduction was attributed to decreased reliance on Chinese manufacturers.

The Significance of the U.S. Ascendancy

“The emergence of the U.S. as Germany’s top trading partner underscores the evolving trade landscape and the gradual disengagement from China,” concludes Brzeski.

This tectonic shift in trading dynamics has far-reaching implications for both Germany and its trading partners. As the U.S. consolidates its position as Germany’s primary trading ally, the global trade landscape continues to reshape.

Data sourced from: