Foreign trade statistics

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The foreign trade statistics is the ( official ) statistics , dedicated to the export and import of goods , so concerned the cross-border trade of goods. Services are generally not covered by foreign trade statistics. As an exception, processing traffic in connection with cross-border goods traffic is included in the statistics.

In the foreign trade statistics, the quantities and values ​​of imported and exported goods are classified according to type of goods and countries. The most important survey characteristics for publication include: value, quantity, goods number, country of origin / country of dispatch when importing, country of destination when exporting.



In Germany , the foreign trade statistics are designed as central statistics, i. In other words, it is compiled by the Federal Statistical Office alone . The foreign trade statistics of the Federal Statistical Office document the entirety of all imports and exports of goods between Germany and abroad.

Since the introduction of the EU internal market in 1993, a distinction has been made in foreign trade statistics between intra-trade statistics (recording of EU trade in goods) and extra-trade statistics (recording of trade in goods outside the EU / third-country trade).

In principle, all companies that are subject to VAT in Germany are required to report in the context of intra-trade statistics. Companies with a trade volume below 500,000 euros for exports to other EU member states and 800,000 euros for imports are exempt from registration.

In the extra trade, the customs declarations made at the customs offices are evaluated.

The legal basis for compiling foreign trade statistics is the Foreign Trade Statistics Act of May 1, 1957, as well as various EU regulations.


In Austria is Statistik Austria responsible for the publication of foreign trade statistics. In Austria, too, the statistics are designed as central statistics. A distinction is made between trade with the EU (Intrastat) and trade with third countries (Extrastat).


The department for foreign trade statistics and economic issues of the Federal Customs Administration (FCA) is responsible for compiling the foreign trade statistics.

European Union

Another distinction in the foreign trade statistics of the EU member states is the differentiation between so-called intra - trade (trade with the member states of the European Union ) (EU) and extra-trade (trade with third countries , i.e. foreign countries that do not belong to the customs territory of the European Union ). Intra-trade and extra-trade also differ in the type of collection due to the lack of customs controls within the EU. Extra trade data is reported by customs to the Federal Statistical Office, intra- trade data is reported directly by companies involved in foreign trade . Since only companies from a certain intra-trade volume are required to report, parts of the foreign trade are added on the basis of the sales tax reports.

United Nations

The United Nations refer to foreign trade statistics as International Merchandise Trade Statistics ( IMTS ).


General trade / special
trade In foreign trade statistics a distinction is made between general trade and special trade . General trade includes all goods imported into and exported from a country. This also includes all imports from third countries in warehouses (in bonded warehouses or free zones ) and exports from these warehouses. Specialized trade only includes goods in stock that are imported from customs warehouses or free zones into the survey area (e.g. Germany).

Services are generally not recorded in the foreign trade statistics. An exception to this is the processing business that involves importing or exporting. If, for example, goods are processed abroad and then re-imported , the processing counts in the foreign trade statistics.

Commodity numbers
The foreign trade statistics in Germany are collected and published according to the eight-digit commodity numbers in the list of goods for foreign trade statistics.

Country of origin / country of dispatch
For imports, a distinction is made between the country of origin and the country of dispatch. The country of origin is the country in which a product was completely extracted or manufactured. The country of dispatch is the country from which the goods are actually imported.

Country of destination
country of destination for exports is the country where the goods used or consumed or to be processed.

External economic indicators


The quantity of goods is generally recorded in kilograms and stated in tons . This is only the net weight of the goods, without any packaging or wrapping. Certain types of goods are also specified in units such as liters , cubic meters or pieces. For which commodity codes these so-called “special units of measurement” are required, is described in the commodity index for foreign trade statistics.


Analogous to the international regulations, the statistical value is used as the value of the goods. This reflects the value of the goods at the German external border. The statistical value results from the invoice amount for the import or export. However, only the amount up to the German border counts for the import value. For goods that are imported or exported free of charge, the price that would have been customary in the market if they had been bought / sold is used.


Goods worth € 90,000 are being exported from Germany to the USA. It was agreed that the buyer in the USA would assume all transport costs ex works . Transport to the German border costs € 2,000. The rest of the transport costs € 8,000. The invoice amount is therefore € 100,000. The statistical value, however, is set at € 92,000, namely the value of the goods plus the transport costs to the German border.

User of the data

Foreign trade statistics are an important source of information for various institutes, business circles and interested parties. The statistics are published monthly, which makes them suitable as an instrument for assessments, planning and decisions due to their regularity and frequency. Below are some users and the reasons for using foreign trade statistics.

  • The European Commission uses the foreign trade statistics for the classification and disposition of agricultural and trade policy in Europe, for the conclusion of trade agreements in the World Trade Organization , for trade bans on certain goods and for the analysis of sensitive goods movements.
  • The international organizations (e.g. UN , IMF , World Bank , WTO , OECD ) use foreign trade statistics in order to be able to interpret and forecast the economic state of a country.
  • The tax authorities determine the economic policy for individual areas according to the foreign trade statistics. The areas of economic policy of the state include regulatory policy and process policy. Examples of regulatory policy are measures to safeguard the social market economy and the maintenance of competition (cartel law). Examples of process policy are growth and business cycle policy.
  • The European Central Bank and the Deutsche Bundesbank use the foreign trade statistics to compile balance of payments statistics .
  • The federal states use the foreign trade statistics for the purpose of export support for regional companies.
  • All companies can use the foreign trade statistics to track the sales development of their products.

For example, the respective states can use the import value of various goods to assess their import dependency with regard to these goods. Furthermore, it can be compared whether certain goods are imported more than exported or vice versa.

The import value is one of several key figures that a state uses to conduct trade , economic and foreign policy . An important aspect in this context is ensuring the supply of goods from abroad that do not occur in Germany or can only be produced with lower productivity.

Public administration, business circles and trade organizations use key figures from foreign trade statistics for forming opinions, making decisions and planning. The European Union uses the import value of a country as a basis of assessment for subsidies that promote business , for example in the field of agriculture. The UN uses the import value for economic analysis of a country.

Development of foreign trade values ​​for Germany and Europe (EU-27)

Foreign trade values ​​for Germany
Values ​​of foreign trade of the EU-27 with non-EU member states

Germany is one of the strongest export countries in the world. In 2016, according to data from the Federal Statistical Office, goods to the value of 1,203.8 billion euros were exported and goods to the value of 954.9 billion euros were imported. Exports and imports thus exceeded the previous highs from 2015, when goods worth 1,193.6 billion euros were exported (exports: + 0.9%) and goods worth 949.2 billion euros were imported (imports: + 0.6%). The foreign trade balance closed in 2016 with the highest surplus to date of 248.9 billion euros. This significantly exceeded the previous high of EUR 244.3 billion from the previous year.

In contrast to Germany, the total foreign trade contribution to the trade balance of the current 27 EU member states has been in deficit for several years. This means that the EU as a whole imports goods annually at a higher value than it exports.

Share of Germany and the EU-27 in world imports and exports

Distribution of world imports by country in percent
Distribution of world exports by country in percent

The share of the EU-27 in world trade remained more or less constant between 1999 and 2005. On average, the percentage of world imports for this period was 19%, which corresponds to a value of € 1.02 trillion. The contribution to world exports averaged 18.6%, which is a value of € 0.92 trillion. Since the beginning of the 21st century, around 20% of the EU-27 import values ​​and around 27% of the EU-27 export values ​​have been generated by Germany. These values ​​relate to extra-EU trade. Germany conducts most of its foreign trade with EU member states such as France, Spain and Italy.

As can be seen from the graphs above the distribution of world imports and world exports, China's shares for both imports and exports have been increasing in recent years. In contrast, the shares of the United States and Canada are declining. It can be seen here that China is playing a growing role in world trade.

Individual evidence

  1. a b Federal Statistical Office (Destatis): List of goods for foreign trade statistics . Retrieved December 15, 2017.
  2. Federal Statistical Office (Destatis): Summary overviews for foreign trade - final annual results. Retrieved December 15, 2017.


Web links

See also