United States of America

United States of America

Last updated in September 2016


Germany and the United States of America are bound together by long-standing ties of friendship. The two countries share many common experiences, values and interests, though controversial issues occasionally arise in bilateral relations.

Germany owes a great deal to the United States: in the aftermath of the Second World War, it provided political support and economic assistance to West Germany under the Marshall Plan. Without the United States as guarantor of freedom in the decades of the Cold War and without U.S. support for German reunification, Germany would not have achieved national reunification in freedom.

In the future, too, the partnership with the United States will be of overriding importance – for Germany’s freedom, security and economic success.

An important pillar of bilateral relations is the transatlantic security community NATO. For Germany, the transatlantic alliance is of paramount importance. Comprehensive cooperation between Germany and the U.S. on security policy has continued to evolve in terms of priorities, one of which is combating international terrorism.

Other issues currently shaping bilateral relations are a further intensification of economic cooperation, close cooperation in managing regional and global crises and the continuing debate on data protection and protecting privacy.

On the economic front, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently under negotiation between the EU and the U.S. opens up substantial economic as well as geostrategic potential.

The close contacts between the two countries are also underscored by the regular visits to the U.S. by Federal Chancellor Merkel, Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier and other members of her Cabinet and the return visits by the American side. President Obama’s most recent visit to Germany was on 24 and 25 April 2016. During his visit, he and Federal Chancellor Merkel jointly opened the Hanover trade fair. Secretary of State Kerry also visited Berlin at the beginning of his term of office, on 26 February 2013, describing Germany as “without doubt one of our strongest and most effective allies in the world”. Secretary of State Kerry visited Germany most recently on 13 February 2016 to attend the Munich Security Conference. Federal President Gauck visited the United States from 5 to 7 October 2015. Another important element of bilateral relations is the intensive exchange of views between German and American parliamentarians.

Of special significance for reasons associated with its history is Germany’s relationship with the approximately six million Jewish Americans, many of whom have German roots. The Federal Government and the German Bundestag maintain intensive contacts and attach great importance to dialogue with American Jewish organisations in order to actively address the crimes committed by the Nazi regime, atone and provide compensation for these as far as possible and foster mutual understanding.


Economic relations between Germany and the United States are another essential pillar of bilateral relations. They cover practically all sectors and are largely untroubled. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which has been under negotiation between the EU and the U.S. since 2013, could open up additional opportunities here. The U.S. is the biggest buyer of German exports and Germany is the U.S.’s most important trading partner in Europe. In terms of the total volume of U.S. bilateral trade (imports and exports), Germany remains in fifth place, behind Canada, China, Mexico and Japan. The U.S. ranks first among Germany’s trading partners. At the end of 2015, bilateral trade was worth approximately USD 174 billion.

U.S. exports to Germany (USD billion)49.148.747.449.449.9
U.S. imports from Germany (USD billion)98.4108.5114.6123.2124.1

(Figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis)

Germany and the U.S. are important to each other as investment destinations. At the end of 2015, bilateral investment was worth USD 363 billion, German direct investment in the U.S. amounting to USD 255 billion and U.S. direct investment in Germany USD 108 billion.

At the end of 2015, U.S. direct investment in Germany, at approximately USD 108 billion, declined against the previous year (approximately USD 115 billion). German direct investment in the U.S. amounted to some USD 255 billion, above the previous year’s level (approximately USD 224 billion). Germany is the seventh largest foreign investor in the U.S., after the United Kingdom, Japan, the Netherlands, Canada, Luxembourg and Switzerland, and ranks eleventh as a destination for U.S. foreign direct investment.

German direct investment in U.S. (USD billion)203.0213.6201.1208.8224,1255.5
U.S. direct investment in Germany (USD billion)103.3119.6118.1118.3115,5108.1

(Figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis)

Culture and education

Cultural relations are wide-ranging. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people travel across the Atlantic – as tourists, participants in the numerous exchange programmes or as artists and performers, scientists and academics as well as school and college students.

Some 17 million American soldiers lived in Germany with their families in the years after the Second World War, coming to appreciate the country and bringing the American way of life to Germany. German takes third place after Spanish and French among the foreign languages taught at private secondary schools and at colleges and universities in the U.S.

Some 50 million Americans, or around 15 per cent of the population, profess German roots. However, German Americans do not constitute a cohesive interest group. There are numerous German-American associations devoted to cultivating German customs and traditions.


Military relations between Germany and the U.S. are based on shared values and find expression in troop deployments in the partner country and, in particular, in joint missions. Germany’s military contributions to crisis and conflict management are not only of military relevance to the United States but also of great significance in terms of military policy. For instance, Germany is, after the U.S., the principal partner in Afghanistan in the Resolute Support Mission (RSM). Germany’s contribution to the anti-ISIS coalition and its assistance in providing military training in northern Iraq are also greatly appreciated by the U.S. side.

Germany is and remains the country hosting one of the largest contingents of American forces outside the U.S and the largest within Europe. The only two military regional commands of U.S. forces stationed outside the U.S. (out of a total of six) are in Stuttgart (USEUCOM and USAFRICOM). The U.S.’s largest military hospital outside its own territory is in the German town of Landstuhl; it also serves as a first stop for U.S. troops wounded in action.

At the summits in Wales (2014) and Warsaw (2016), NATO member states agreed, among other things, to strengthen the alliance’s eastern flank. Germany and the U.S. are making substantial contributions in this respect, including the presence of military units in Poland and Lithuania, improving military capabilities and coordinating training exercises and manoeuvres in Eastern Europe (Transatlantic Capability Enhancement and Training Initiative, TACET). The TACET concept is being developed further and, as a result of this long-standing cooperation, is being employed for joint manoeuvres, the intensive exchange of experience and the further development of deployment procedures. Conversely, troops of the German Armed Forces receive training at American armed forces’ facilities in the U.S., regularly participate in joint manoeuvres and are integrated in terms of staff assignments in both the U.S. and Germany. Since autumn 2014, a German Brigadier General has for the first time occupied the prominent position of Chief of Staff of U.S. Army Europe, which is based in Wiesbaden.

There is also close cooperation between the two countries in the defence technology sector. This intensive cooperation is reflected in the existence of a German Liaison Office for Defense Materiel in the U.S. and a number of liaison officers working in important sections of the U.S. armed forces.

Transatlantic relations

The transatlantic partnership is a basic axiom in German foreign policy. It is no longer merely a matter of security issues. The spectrum of global challenges - from climate protection through the international financial architecture to the identification of the human genome - is now the subject of cooperation.

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