last updated in September 2018
Germany and the United States of America are bound together by a friendship based on centuries-old historical ties. We share a multitude of experiences, values and interests. This allows us to have a frank exchange of views within the framework of which we can also discuss differences of opinion.
Germany owes a great deal to the United States: in the aftermath of the Second World War, the Marshall Plan helped to stimulate economic growth and provided key impetus for democratisation and the development of a liberal, pluralistic state based on freedom and the rule of law. Without the United States as guarantor of freedom in the decades of the Cold War and without US support for German reunification, Germany would not have regained its unity in freedom.
In the future, too, the partnership with the United States will be of overriding importance – for freedom, security and Germany’s 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 United States 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 the ties between Germany and the United States as trading partners, as partners who work together to uphold shared values, but also as partners in strengthening security and stability in regional and global crises.
The close contacts between the two countries are maintained by regular visits to the United States by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Foreign Minister and other members of her Cabinet. Another important element of bilateral relations is the intensive exchange of views between German and American parliamentarians.
Due to its history, Germany’s relationship with the approximately six million Jewish Americans, many of whom have German roots, is of special significance. The German Government and the 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.
The close economic relations between Germany and the United States are an essential pillar of bilateral relations. The United States is the biggest buyer of German exports and Germany is the United States’ most important trading partner in Europe. In terms of the total volume of US bilateral trade (imports and exports), Germany remains in fifth place, behind China, Canada, Mexico and Japan. The United States ranks third among Germany’s trading partners. At the end of 2017, bilateral trade was worth approximately 171 billion US dollars. US exports to Germany in 2017 amounted to 53.5 billion US dollars (2016: 49.3 billion), while US imports from Germany came to 117.7 billion US dollars (2016: 114.6 billion).
Germany and the United States are important to each other as locations for investment. At the end of 2016, bilateral investment was worth 398 billion US dollars, with German direct investment in the United States amounting to 291 billion US dollars and US direct investment in Germany 107 billion US dollars. With a total of 674,000 jobs, German companies are the fourth largest foreign employer in the United States and also make a considerable contribution towards exports from the United States (for example, BMW is the biggest car exporter from the United States).
Culture and education
Cultural relations are wide-ranging and encompass a broad spectrum of exchange programmes and private initiatives. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people travel across the Atlantic – as participants in the numerous exchange programmes or as artists and performers, as scientists and academics, as well as school and college students or simply as tourists. The more than 200 German-American town twinning arrangements represent a key part of cultural exchange. Berlin and Los Angeles celebrated 50 years of partnership in 2017, and in 2018 Leipzig and Houston are celebrating 25 years of vibrant and successful partnership. In order to further intensify the civil-society dialogue across the Atlantic, the Federal Foreign Office in conjunction with the Goethe-Institut and the Federation of German Industries is preparing the Deutschlandjahr USA 2018/19, which is opening in Washington in October 2018. A whole host of projects will be carried out to reach people in all parts of the United States, also groups which have previously been less of a focus of transatlantic exchange. Numerous events spotlighting a wide variety of thematic areas, ranging from freedom, diversity and responsibility, the spread of digital technology and the future of work to German heritage and German culture and lifestyle will take place.
German is in third place behind Spanish and French among the foreign languages taught at private secondary schools and at colleges and universities in the United States.
Some 50 million Americans, or around 15 percent of the population, profess German roots. However, they do not constitute a cohesive interest group. There are numerous German-American associations devoted to cultivating German customs and traditions.
The close relations between the armed forces of Germany and the United States are based on shared values and find expression in troop deployments in the partner country and in joint manoeuvres and 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 United States, the principal partner in Afghanistan in the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) in Afghanistan. Germany’s contribution to the anti-ISIS coalition is also greatly appreciated by the US side.
Germany remains one of the most important deployment locations for the American forces outside the United States, and with 33,000 soldiers in total it is the biggest base within Europe. The only two military regional commands of US forces stationed outside the United States (out of a total of six) are in Stuttgart (USEUCOM and USAFRICOM). The largest US military hospital outside its own territory is in the German town of Landstuhl; it serves as a first stop for US troops wounded in action. Since the end of the Second World War, approximately 17 million US military personnel have been stationed in Germany with their families.
Conversely, troops of the German Armed Forces receive training at American armed forces’ facilities in the United States, regularly participate in joint manoeuvres and are integrated in terms of staff assignments in both the United States and Germany. Since autumn 2014, a German Brigadier General has occupied the key position of Chief of Staff of US Army Europe (USAREUR), which is based in Wiesbaden. German officers are considered members of the US armed forces during such appointments.
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 United States and a number of liaison officers working in important sections of the US armed forces.
At the summits in Newport, Wales (2014) and Warsaw (2016), NATO member states agreed, among other things, to initiate assurance measures for allies in the east. Germany and the United States are making substantial contributions towards this. These measures include the presence of multinational military units on a rotational basis in Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Within the framework of this NATO Forward Presence, Germany has taken over command of the multinational battalion in Lithuania as framework nation. The Transatlantic Capability Enhancement and Training Initiative (TACET) is designed to improve military capabilities and coordinate training exercises and manoeuvres in eastern Europe. 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 experiences and the further development of deployment procedures.
At the same time, Washington expects European members of NATO to make progress in developing their military capabilities. President Trump is strongly urging NATO allies to make a greater contribution to security, and in particular to increase their defence budgets.
Close cooperation with the United States in the security sphere is in Germany’s central interest and this collaboration is being continued through intensive and constructive dialogue.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.
The transatlantic partnership is a basic pillar of 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.