External contribution

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The external balance ( English trade balance ) recognized as an economic indicator , the value of all exports and imports of tangible and intangible goods and services of a state within a billing period .


For the purposes of macroeconomic ex-ante analysis of the external balance is the net demand of foreign , ie the difference between the foreign demand and imports. The national accounts (VGR) include the external contribution as a surplus of income from exports over expenditure from imports or vice versa. This definition corresponds to that of Eurostat for all EU Member States . If the export values ​​are higher than the import values, there is a positive balance, which is called net export ; conversely, there is a net import .

In addition to the trade balance, the trade balance also includes the services balance . The latter includes travel , transportation , patent and license fees, and investment income .


The external contribution is made up of the balances of the trade and services balance. In contrast to the balance of the current account, the external balance does not include current transfers ( transfer payments , e.g. payments to the EU budget ; previously recorded in the transfer balance).

The gross domestic product and imports are available to domestic economic agents for consumption , investments and exports :


Forming gives the intermediate result:


The external contribution results from isolation as


If the value of the exports is higher than the imports, then there is a net export :


In the case of net imports, imports predominate:


If imports and exports balance each other out in terms of value, the external balance is “zero”.

The external trade ratio is the share of external trade in GDP:


It shows what proportion of the gross domestic product is not used for consumption or investment and is therefore saved . A negative external contribution ratio shows how high the consumption expenditure and investments financed from savings are in relation to the gross domestic product.

economic aspects

Of considerable importance in foreign trade is the question of the extent to which a state provides its services to other countries net or receives net services from abroad for its own use; this question is answered by the external contribution. With an external contribution of "zero", the GDP corresponds to the domestic use, with a net export the foreign country absorbs part of the domestic GDP, with a net import the home uses services from abroad. The external balance is therefore often used as a measure of external balance .

An external contribution of “zero” is more of a coincidence, so that there are mostly exporting nations (net exports; “ export world champions ”) or import-heavy countries (net imports). In 2015, 123 countries worldwide had a trade deficit , but only 62 countries had a trade surplus . Both are lacking in external balance, because the trade surplus is also an imbalance. Equilibrium means that the balance of expenditure from imports and income from exports is "zero" in the medium term. Even an external balance of “zero” does not mean an external balance because the other partial balances can show surpluses or deficits.

A positive (negative) external contribution is usually offset by a net capital export ( capital import) because the net export of goods and services from abroad is not paid for in the form of a return delivery of goods and services. If, for example, the USA imports more from Germany than it exports to Germany itself, this makes Germany necessary to export capital to the USA (if the balance of payments is not settled via another sub-balance), be it that the USA is granted a loan from Germany , be it that German economic subjects buy a company in the USA so that the USA can use this income to pay for its import surplus vis-à-vis Germany, or similar forms of capital export. A sustained export surplus therefore leads to an increase in the net financial external assets , i.e. H. either to increase a net creditor position or to reduce a net debtor position, although not necessarily in relation to GDP.

A net export leads to increasing currency reserves . They arise from the current account surpluses of a state or economic area . Net exports can help reduce foreign currency debt. Conversely, net imports lead to the depletion of currency reserves because they have to be paid for in foreign currency , which puts a strain on the foreign exchange balance sheet and can contribute to an increase in national debt . Growing external imbalances are critically discussed as a possible cause of the financial crisis from 2007 onwards .


The external balance in Germany developed as follows between 2009 and 2019:

year External contribution
in billion euros
2009 + 122.56
2010 + 134.95
2011 + 132.20
2012 + 167.47
2013 + 161.89
2014 + 193.75
2015 + 229.14
2016 + 230.77
2017 + 230.44
2018 + 206.06
2019 + 207.69

The concept of the national accounts, which was changed in 2019, only covers economic entities who have their place of business or domicile in Germany ( domestic concept ).

The countries with the highest net exports (only trade surplus) in 2019 were:

2019 export surplus
in billion US $
China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China + 421.90
GermanyGermany Germany + 254.94
RussiaRussia Russia + 164.24
Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia Saudi Arabia + 126.70
NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands + 73.26
IrelandIreland Ireland + 71.30
ItalyItaly Italy + 59.15
AustraliaAustralia Australia + 50.02
TaiwanRepublic of China (Taiwan) Taiwan + 43.46
QatarQatar Qatar + 41.29

The People's Republic of China has topped the list of world export champions since 2009, followed by Germany and Russia.

Exports and export surpluses in relation to GDP

The figure shows the exports in relation to the respective GDP for the three largest economies in the world (the triad ) , as well as the net exports in relation to the GDP. While Germany ( export world champion until 2008 ) and Japan recorded an export surplus, imports for the USA are larger than exports.

In trade in goods, Germany achieved net exports of EUR 23.7 billion to the United Kingdom in 2006 (2004: EUR 24.5 billion) and to the USA of EUR 27.9 billion (2004: EUR 23.5 billion) according to the Deutsche Bundesbank. Euros) and compared to France one of 22.3 billion euros (2004: 23.0 billion euros). In contrast, Germany recorded net imports of EUR 20.4 billion (2004: EUR 10.5 billion) from China excluding Hong Kong and EUR 10.5 billion from Japan (2004: EUR 7.0 billion).

In terms of income from services rendered abroad and expenditure on foreign services, Germany achieved a minus of 38.2 billion euros in 2006 (33.0 billion euros in 2004), so that the surplus in the foreign trade balance, which includes trade in goods and Services, is lower than the balance of goods. On balance, Germany achieved the greatest minus in services compared to the traditional holiday countries Austria (-6.2 billion euros), Spain (-6.1 billion euros) and France (-3.9 billion euros). Germany achieved surpluses in services, for example, compared to Denmark (+0.3 billion euros), Japan (+0.6 billion euros) and China excluding Hong Kong (+0.1 billion euros).

Literature / web links

Individual evidence

  1. Verlag Dr. Th. Gabler (ed.), Gablers Wirtschafts-Lexikon , Volume 1, 1984, Col. 403
  2. Verlag Dr. Th. Gabler (ed.), Gablers Wirtschafts-Lexikon , Volume 1, 1984, Col. 403
  3. Eurostat, external contribution current prices, European System of National Accounts , 2010, 8.68
  4. Heinz-Josef Bontrup, wages and profits: Volks- und Betriebswirtschaftliche Grundzüge , 2008, p. 298 FN 669
  5. Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden (ed.), Compact Lexicon Internationale Wirtschaft , 2013, p. 42
  6. ^ Institute for the World Economy / Stefan Kooths, Myth “External Contribution” , September 2017
  7. Federal Statistical Office, Foreign Trade, External Contribution Quota
  8. Claus Köhler / Gerhard Merk, Geldwirtschaft , Volume 2: Balance of payments and exchange rate , 1979, p. 21
  9. Claus Köhler / Gerhard Merk, Geldwirtschaft , Volume 2: Balance of payments and exchange rate , 1979, p. 21
  10. Claus Köhler / Gerhard Merk, Geldwirtschaft , Volume 2: Balance of payments and exchange rate , 1979, p. 22
  11. International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook , October 2015, pp. 25 ff.
  12. ↑ In addition to the external balance and the capital account , the balance of payments also has other partial balances
  13. Olivier Blanchard / Gerhard Illing, Makroökonomie , 4th edition, Munich, 2006, p. 527 ff.
  14. Wolfgang Münchau, Meltdown in the Financial System , Carl Hanser Verlag , 2008, p. 155 ff.
  15. Benedikt Fehr , Bretton Woods II is dead. Long live Bretton Woods III , in: FAZ of May 12, 2009, p. 32. FAZ.Net, Bretton Woods II is dead. Long live Bretton Woods III
  16. Statista from February 2020, external contribution in Germany from 2009 to 2019
  17. Statista from February 2020, countries with the largest trade surplus in 2019