When you think about the United States’ biggest imports from Germany, what comes to mind? If you pictured beer and luxury cars, think again—according to the 2020 Global Imports Report, the U.S. receives mostly machinery, plastic and rubber products, and metals from this global trade powerhouse.
Germany has been the leading European maritime importer for the United States for years, and sends more goods to the U.S. than some of its most populous top trading partners—India, Japan, and Indonesia, for example.
How has Germany performed in global trade over the years, what specific products does it send across the Atlantic, and how might those change in the future? We analyzed millions of import records to give a clearer picture of Germany’s performance in import shipping.
Germany’s global trade performance over time
Germany has had marginal ups and downs in its relative share of U.S. imports, but has consistently been the second or third-largest importer to the U.S. since 2015.
Top 10 Countries by Share of U.S. Imports | 2015-2020
|1||China, 40.6%||China, 40.5%||China, 40.7%||China, 41.6%||China, 38.6%||China, 41.1%|
|2||Taiwan, 4.1%||Germany, 4.3%||Germany, 4.5%||Germany, 4.2%||Vietnam, 5%||Vietnam, 5.5%|
|3||Germany, 4.1%||Taiwan, 4%||India, 3.8%||Vietnam, 4%||Germany, 4.3%||Germany, 4%|
It currently accounts for about 4% of all U.S. maritime imports, a figure that has also remained steady over the past five years. While some countries have experienced dramatic growth in their export capacity—like Vietnam, whose share of U.S. imports grew by 65% from 2015 to 2020—Germany is more or less a reliable leader in terms of its trade with the U.S.
In the first half of 2020, Germany shipped 226,186 imports to the U.S. This is about 8% more than Taiwan, the fourth-largest U.S. importer, and 27% less than the second-largest, Vietnam.
What kinds of products does the U.S. import from Germany?
While it is the fourth-largest contributor to U.S. transportation imports, vehicles are not Germany’s primary export to the U.S. Like many of the top U.S. importers, Germany ships high quantities of products within the United States’ top import categories: Machinery & Electrical, Plastics & Rubbers, and Metals. We can browse Jungle Scout’s Supplier Database to find out where popular German brands manufacture the products they sell in the U.S. Amazon marketplace.
1. Machinery & Electrical
Known for its innovative engineers, Germany has produced world-renowned brands that specialize in complex household and professional items. Electric clippers, coffee makers, and digital cameras are a few examples.
Gerlingen-based Bosch sells a popular line of power tools on Amazon, including drills and reciprocating saws. It produces its products in Hildesheim, located in northern Germany.
2. Plastics & Rubbers
Germany produces much of the rubber and plastic used in consumer products sold in the U.S. For example, Hanover-based brand Continental AG sources its rubber from German manufacturers in Görwihl, Gummersbach, and Aschaffenburg. It then gets made into automotive and bicycle tires, as well as shoe soles for Adidas, another German brand.
If you’ve ever shopped for high-quality kitchen knives, you know that German steel tends to fetch high ratings.
Take Zwilling and Henckels. These two labels make up the Zwilling J.A. Henckels brand, which has been headquartered in the west German city of Solingen since its founding in 1731. On Amazon, listings for Zwilling and Henckels knives on Amazon are often rated 4.5/5 stars or higher.
Footwear, fashion, and food
We can find other popular German-made items on Amazon within other U.S. import categories, like Footwear & Headgear, Textiles, and Foodstuffs.
For instance, Birkenstock sandals are manufactured in Neustadt.
Adidas products are made in Scheinfeld.
And Haribo gummy bears come from Bonn.
Predicting the future of U.S. Imports from Germany
Given that Germany ships relatively large amounts of imports within the U.S’s top import categories each year, it’s easy to see why it has remained rock-solid as a top U.S. importer over the years.
It also seems likely that Germany will continue to be the dominant European trading partner with the U.S., given its lead over its neighboring traders. If we look at other high-volume producers shipping products to the U.S. that fall within Machinery & Electrical, Plastics & Rubbers, and Metals, all are in Asia.
Leading Global Traders by Category | 2020
|Machinery & Electrical||Imports||Plastics & Rubbers||Imports||Metals||Imports|
Germany is the only European country within the top five global traders in all three of these large U.S. import categories.
It also fared comparatively well over the first half of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic slowed manufacturing and trade across the globe. Like Italy and Belgium, it was able to curb its new cases by May.
Though it still tracked for negative year-over-year growth in its share of U.S. imports, its pandemic-related losses in trade to the U.S. were not nearly as dramatic as those of France, Italy, and the U.K., not to mention Hong Kong, India, and Japan.
Top 20 Countries by U.S. Imports: 2020 H1 YoY Change
It’s hard to imagine U.S. demand for Germany’s most popular brands declining—Adidas, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz are mainstays for American consumers. The future of Germany’s dominance in U.S. trade may depend in part on how well it maintains its current share of imports in the top U.S. categories.
For more on global trade, see the full 2020 Global Imports Report.