Emerging countries on German import markets 2001-2021

10:19 by Hubert Fromlet, Kalmar

Two facts are obvious when analyzing international and German developments in the past two decades. One is that Germany remains the number one importing country in Europe, the other one is that emerging countries have gained substantial markets shares in the advanced country of Germany. Although the table below does not explain everything, one should get some illuminating impression – also in general terms – about successfully exporting emerging markets and late EU-member countries.

German imports by country*
(percent of total imports)
2001 2021 Difference
U.S. 8.5 6.0 minus 2.5
UK 6.9 2.7 minus 4.2
France 9.2 5.2 minus 4.0
Sweden 1.7 1.4 minus 0.3
Poland 2.5 5.7 plus 3.2
Czech Rep 2.7 4.2 plus 1.5
Slovak Rep 0.8 1.4 plus 0.6
Hungary 2.2 2.5 plus 0.3
Romania 0.4 1.2 plus 0.8
Bulgaria 0.1 0.4 plus 0.3
Russia 2.7 2.8 plus 0.1
China 3.7 11.8 plus 8.1
India 0.5 0.9 plus 0.4
Vietnam 0.2 0.9 plus 0,7
Korea 0.9 1.1 plus 0.2
Malaysia 0.7 0.8 plus 0.1
Turkey 1.2 1.5 plus 0.3
South Africa 0.6 1.0 plus 0.4
Mexico 0.3 0.6 plus 0.3
Brazil 0.8 0.6 minus 0.2
Asia (China included) 15.5 22.2 plus 6.7 (minus if China excl)
Africa 2.1 2.2 plus 0.1
Latin America 1.6 1.3 minus 0.3
Europe 70.9 66.8 minus 4.1

* In current prices. Source:  https://www.destatis.de/EN/Themes/Economy/Foreign-Trade/Tables/order-rank-germany-trading-partners.html; own calculations

It is indeed no surprise that Poland and the Czech Republic have been particularly successful on the large German market – but also the Slovak Republic, Hungary and Romania have made visible progress. As one could expect, Asia is the continental winner on the German market for importers, due to China’s success story. India – on the other hand – is still moving very slowly (but has been improving all the same). Vietnam performed quite nicely in recent years.

A number of other Asian – mainly South East Asian – countries, however, stagnated more or less in Germany since the beginning of this century and contributed strongly to the slightly declining market share of Asia minus China. This is not always known. Africa still remains, unfortunately, unable to catch up significantly. The same seems to be the case when it comes to Latin America which has been losing momentum in the past two decades, mainly caused by disappointing Brazil.

Summary: It may be concluded that emerging countries from Asia – but not all of them – and countries from the previous Comecon area in Eastern Europe obviously have succeeded well on the tough German market during the past twenty years. Most countries in Latin America have their difficulties to compete. Persistent future progress on foreign markets assumes much more focus on improvements of education and institutions.


Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board


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