German exports decline in May, with sharp decline outside EU

By Friederike Marx and Marco Engemann, dpa

German exporters sold fewer goods abroad in May, with a particularly sharp decline in exports to countries outside the European Union, the Federal Statistical Office reported on Monday.

Exports to the United States were hit, declining by 10.2 per cent on the same month a year previously to 8.5 billion euros (10.0 billion dollars).

While punitive tariffs imposed on steel by Washington took effect only from the start of July, statements by US President Donald Trump have caused uncertainty in Germany, as last year the US was the largest market for German goods.

Total German exports were down 1.3 per cent on the year at 109.1 billion euros, while imports were up 0.8 per cent at 89.4 billion euros.

Exports outside the EU fell 6.4 per cent to 43.4 billion euros, while imports fell 1.9 per cent to 37.6 billion euros as a widening trade conflict with the United States continued.

During the first five months of the year, however, German exports were up 3.2 per cent at 547.7 billion euros. Imports were up 3.8 per cent, at 447.5 billion euros.

The BGA foreign trade association expressed satisfaction at the figures. “Companies are continuing to impress the global market with goods and services, defying the current unpredictability,” BGA President Holger Bingmann said.

He looked to government consultations between Germany and China in Berlin on Monday as a good opportunity to improve trade relations.

“In particular, fair and open global trade is important, and here China should act so that its commitment to globalization and open markets is more than words,” Bingmann said.

In a sign of the effects of increased tariffs, German carmaker BMW said it would be increasing its prices for cars imported from its US assembly plants into China as Chinese authorities raise tariffs in response to similar US actions.

“BMW China will not be able to absorb completely the increases in customs duties for cars imported from the USA,” a BMW spokesman said from company headquarters in Munich on Monday.

For the present, prices would be unaffected, but the company was busy calculating the effects of the increased tariffs and would publish new prices later, he said.

In reaction to punitive US tariffs, China has announced a tariff increase of up to 40 per cent on cars imported from the US.

By contrast, Beijing cut the tariff for the rest of the world to 15 from 25 per cent effective from July 1.

BMW assembles its sport-utility vehicle models for export to China at its largest plant, in Spartanburg in South Carolina. Production of the X3 SUV began at BMW’s Shenyang plant in China in May.

Daimler recently cut its profit forecast for the year, citing Beijing’s tariffs on US-produced vehicles. Daimler assembles its large SUVs at Tuscaloosa in Alabama, many for export to China.

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