Germany gave up its title as Exportweltmeister -- the world's champion exporter -- to China in 2009, in part because of the global economic crisis, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
China sent $957 billion worth of goods around the world in the first 10 months of 2009, compared with $917 billion in German exports, according to Geneva-based Global Trade Information Services. Experts don't expect data from the last two months to change the new ranking.
Both German and Chinese exports were down, but China's economic growth has been phenomenal in the past few years. In 2007, it usurped Germany as the third-largest economy in the world.
"China has been growing much more rapidly than Germany on all sorts of dimensions and has a population of 1.3 billion, while Germany has 83 million," Douglas Irwin, an economics professor at Dartmouth College, to the newspaper.
Bad News, Good News
Germany's recent role as an export titan was dented by the global recession, according to the powerful Federation of German Industries (BDI), which said the export sector slumped 18 percent in 2009. BDI expects a 4-percent bounceback in 2010, but full recovery might take another four years.
"Germany's export industries are on the road to improvement, but the recovery process will take longer," said BDI president Hans-Peter Keitel in his firm's foreign trade report. "At this rate, we won't get back to pre-crisis levels until 2014."
But the new export rankings may in fact be good news for Germany, precisely because of a difference between China's exports and its own. China tends to manufacture low-cost consumer goods, while Germany is strong in precision machinery and industrial tools. The more Chinese factories produce, the more equipment they'll have to buy from German firms, according to Dr. Dirk Schlotböller at the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce.
"If China grows very fast and gets the championship in exports, it's only good for the German economy," Dr. Schlotböller said to the Wall Street Journal.