For trade-heavy Germany, the statistics meant more bad news in a week which has humbled the most powerful economy in Europe
These containers are looking for a home.
As if there wasn’t enough bad news.
German exports fell to their lowest levels since April 1999, a blow to a country used to double-digit growth rates in their foreign trade. The statistic, released by the government’s statistics office on Thursday, is menacing for export-based businesses like Krauss-Maffei Plastics.
"2002 is going to be a difficult year," Wilhelm Schröder told DW-TV in an interview. "I don’t expect us to see any notable recovery by the end of the year. We are geared up to face 18 quiet months."
In all, the amount of exports dropped to 54.3 billion euro, a reduction of 4.5 percent from the year before, according to the statistics office. The numbers were part of an overall dismal showing by the German economy, which grew by the lowest percentage in eight years in 2001.
The growth rate, among the lowest in Europe, raised eyebrows in Brussels. The European Commission indicated Thursday that it would send Berlin an "early warning letter" to get its fiscal position in order and ensure that it did not deteriorate further. The result could be disastrous not only for Germany, but for the rest of the EU, one expert told DW-TV.
"The German economy is still the strongest in the European Union and if the German economy does badly, I think that all the neighboring countries will suffer," said Thomas Straubhaar, president of the Hamburg Institute of International economics.
With help, numbers will probably turn around
The export numbers came just four months after the Wiesbaden-based office showed an increase in the amount German companies were exporting. The fact showed how tempermental export statistics can be, a sign analysts found encouraging.
Countries across the world have been ordering less, so it was only a matter of time before the export numbers turned around, Stefan Schneider of Deutsche Bank research told the Financial Times Deutschland.
As with other aspects of the country’s economic recovery, raising the export level depends heavily on a turnaround in the United States, even though it receives only 10 percent of Germany’s exports.
"This might be surprising at first, but if you go into details you’ll see that the United States has such a strong economy for the entire world that if the United States does a bad job, then the whole world suffers," Straubhaar said.