China overtakes Germany as top world exporter

FRANKFURT : China and its population of 1.3 billion has overtaken Germany, population 82 million, as the world’s top exporter, trade figures released on Friday by the German national statistics office show.

From January to November, Chinese exports were worth 1.07 trillion dollars, while German data showed that exports from Europe’s biggest economy amounted to 734.6 billion euros, or 1.05 trillion dollars.

The widely-expected crowning of a new export champion should be confirmed when Germany releases full-year 2009 trade figures on February 9.

Economic growth in both countries depend largely on exports, which critics claim contributes to overall global imbalances, urging Germans to consume more and Chinese authorities to let the Yuan float freely against the dollar.

In November, the German trade surplus climbed to 17.2 billion euros, seasonally corrected figures from the Destatis service showed, from 13.6 billion in October amid a pick up in global trade.

“The German product specialisation with a high share of capital goods and high presence in Asian markets, make Germany one of the main beneficiaries of an investment-led global recovery,” ING senior economist Carsten Brzeski said.

He noted that German exports to China had increased by almost 12 percent from November 2008, and that the unadjusted German trade surplus of 17.4 billion euros was the country’s biggest since June 2008.

Global trade was slammed in September of that year following the collapse of the US investment bank Lehman Brothers.

China, meanwhile, expects its share of global trade to exceed nine percent in 2009, Vice Commerce Minister Zhong Shan said late last month, from 8.86 percent in 2008.

Chinese exports include items such as electronic goods and clothing while those from Germany include automobiles, chemical products and specialised machine tools.

On December 30, China and Southeast Asian nations established the world’s biggest free trade area in terms of population, and one which rivals the European Union and North America Free Trade Area in terms of value.

Germany benefits greatly from EU trade, which accounted for 63 percent of its exports in November, and provided 462 billion euros in revenues.

“It is good to know that the German economy can at least rely on a good old friend: its strong export sector,” Brzeski said.

Europe’s biggest economy is slowly recovering from its worst recession since World War II, and its economy is estimated to have contracted by around 5.0 percent in 2009.

The German central bank has forecast growth of 1.6 percent in 2010.

China’s economy likely grew by 8.5 percent in 2009, senior official Zhang Xiaoqiang has said, and could expand by another 9.5 percent this year.

Most experts say increased trade benefits everyone in the end, but efforts to boost global commerce remain deadlocked and the 2007-2008 economic slowdown has fuelled fears of increased protectionism.

The Doha round of trade liberalisation talks has dragged on since its launch in 2001, dogged by a string of missed deadlines and setbacks.

World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy has suggested that members decide in March whether they can strike an agreement this year.

—AFP

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