East German Exports: Remarkable Catch-up, but Still Lagging Behind
German reunification entailed severe adjustment processes in East German export industries. With political and economic transition in Eastern Europe, at that time the main export market for East German producers, export demand initially collapsed in the early 1990s. Additionally, the introduction of the Deutschmark in Eastern Germany amounted to a massive revaluation, and international competitiveness of East German producers deteriorated. However, manufacturers in the New Federal States opened up new markets, especially in Western Europe and the Americas. As a consequence, after the downturn of construction activity and investment in the mid-1990s, international trade became the driving force of GDP-growth in Eastern Germany. Although since then, goods exports of the New Federal States grew twice as much as those of Western Germany, export ratio (goods exports as a percentage of GDP) only amounts to 22 per cent in Eastern Germany, compared to 42 per cent in the western part of the country. Even in comparison to Eastern European countries in transition, openness to trade of the New Federal States is still comparatively low. As an empirical analysis shows, this must be largely traced back to smaller firm sizes in the New Federal States as well as to the lower importance of manufacturing industries, which are traditionally more export-oriented. Moreover, East German manufacturers largely specialized on intermediate inputs, which are supplied to final assembly lines in Western Germany, but are not recorded as exports. Thereby, East German export performance is considerably underestimated.