By Andrew Whitehead on Feb 8, 13 08:59 PM in

It's official: just when Germany expected us to head for the EU exit door, it seems we're their biggest trading partner.

According to recently released Bundesbank figures, the UK has now overtaken France as Germany's biggest global trade partner - with trade between the two countries hitting €153bn in the first 9 months of 2012.

It's probably a mistake to view this as a prelude to a waning of Germany's recently strained enthusiasm for the Eurozone core. Nonetheless, it's welcome news for UK plc, and coincides with a rise in British goods exports to Germany by 20% over the first 3 quarters, despite the continued economic gloom.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the key UK export markets to Germany is car components - with the Midlands a key player.

But UK green goods and services are another success story. At the last count, the sector was valued at around £122bn, and employs almost one million people. Key sub-sectors are alternative fuels, building technologies and wind energy, with wave and tidal energy, and carbon finance also making a strong showing.

According to latest government figures, we exported £121m more green goods and services to Germany than we imported from them.

So all the more surprising, then, to see UK companies apparently so thin on the ground at this week's E-World energy fair in Essen, Germany.

In what is billed as the world's largest energy (and water) trade fair, I was expecting to be tripping over UK companies competing to win a share of business in Europe's largest economy.

The opportunities in the energy sector are huge, in light of what the Germans called "Energiewende" - the transition and reshaping of the industry in response to nuclear closures post-Fukushima and a surge in renewable energy (amongst other things). There are many themes that will be familiar to observers of the UK utility scene; a huge investment programme in transmission grids, new power stations and alternative energy technologies, and ever-increasing demand for innovative solutions to improve energy efficiency and develop smart grids.

However, if the long list of exhibitors in Essen was anything to go by, the domestic German utilities, manufacturers and service providers more or less had all bases covered.

Perhaps, with our own version of the "Energiewende" underway, there are enough opportunities for UK companies closer to home right now. A February trip to North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany's industrial heartland is, after all, unlikely to be on the top of anyone's Bucket List.

However, it's clear that the UK and Germany have a lot more in common than a royal family and an unfair reputation for dodgy cuisine. A healthy trading relationship, built on a shared belief in liberal free market values, looks set to play an increasingly central part in the current debate about the UK's role in Europe.

Business authors

David Bailey

David Bailey - Professor of Industrial Strategy at the Aston Business School, Birmingham
My postings | David Bailey's RSS feed My feed

Stuart Pemble

Stuart Pemble - Construction Lawyer, Mills & Reeve
My postings | Stuart Pemble's RSS feed My feed

John Clancy

John Clancy - Birmingham City Councillor and director of and
My postings | John Clancy's RSS feed My feed

John Samuels

John Samuels - Professor of Business Finance, Birmingham Business School
My postings | John Samuels's RSS feed My feed

Chris Tomlinson

Chris Tomlinson - Chris Tomlinson is the founder of social media and online PR agency Friend (
My postings | Chris Tomlinson's RSS feed My feed

Andrew Whitehead

Andrew Whitehead - Senior partner at law firm SGH Martineau, leading the firm's Energy & Climate Change practice.
My postings | Andrew Whitehead's RSS feed My feed

Keith Gabriel

Keith Gabriel - A Birmingham-based PR Account Manager
My postings | Keith Gabriel's RSS feed My feed

Beverley Nielsen

Beverley Nielsen - Lecturer, Design Management, at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design, BCU
My postings  | Beverley Nielsen'a RSS feed My feed

Mike Loftus

Mike Loftus - Director of News from the Future Ltd. Writing on the trials of setting up your own business
My postings | Mike Loftus's RSS feed My feed

Richard Halstead

Richard Halstead - Midlands region director for EEF, the manufacturers organisation.
My postings | Richard Halstead's RSS feed My feed

Karl Edge

Karl Edge - partner at KPMG in Birmingham, specialising in automotive, manufacturing and house building sectors.
My postings | Karl Edge's RSS feed My feed

Peter Owen

Peter Owen - Managing director for construction firm Willmott Dixon Midlands.
My postings | Peter Owen's RSS feed My feed

Dr Steven McCabe

Dr Steven McCabe - director of research degrees for Birmingham City Business School.
My postings | Dr Steven McCabe's RSS feed My feed

Francis Greene

Francis Greene - Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, at the University of Birmingham.
My postings

Alan Gilmour

Alan Gilmour - Director at Cogent Elliott, experienced in marketing, brand development and customer relationship management.
My postings

Paul Noon

Paul Noon - Paul Noon, OBE, West Midlands International Trade Director at UK Trade & Investment.
My postings

Latest Birmingham Post Lifestyle blog

Lifestyle Blog

Birmingham Post staff and guest bloggers from the midlands give you the lowdown on what's happening in your region and some musings on culture in the UK and beyond.

Keep up to date

Sponsored Links