Growing Exports Lead Germany's Economic Recovery

Germany's economy leads other European Union nations in recovery. Strong demand for exports have helped, but some wonder if these good times can be sustained as its economic partners continue to struggle.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Okay, so the United States is number one. China, at the moment, appears to be number two, Japan number three. The world's fourth-largest economy is the one we'll talk about next: Germany.

Germany is a success story at a time when Greece, Spain and other European nations seem to be faltering. Led by a surge in exports, the latest economic growth numbers show Germany's recovering gathering speed. But economists worry whether that growth can be sustained, especially if demand for German goods starts to slip.

NPR's Eric Westervelt reports.

ERIC WESTERVELT: European sovereign debt crisis? What debt crisis? The 2.2 percent German growth rate in the second quarter - nearly nine percent for the year, if it keeps pace - beat even the most optimistic predictions. The best performance since German reunification nearly 20 years ago was led by growing exports - particularly cars and industrial goods - which continue to lead Germany out of its worst post-war recession.

Economist Carsten Brzeski is with the Belgian bank ING.

Mr. CARSTEN BRZESKI (Economist, ING): Germany will be outstanding, incredible performance of the German export sector, driven by strong demand from Asia, from China and a weak euro.

WESTERVELT: The jobless rate here continues to fall, as well. And many of the unionized German workers who embraced flexible and reduced-hour schemes to help companies weather the recession are now back to full-time work. But some economists fear Germany is bursting out of the recession on the untenable spending of other countries, especially its European neighbors. More than 60 percent of Germany's exports are to other countries that use the euro. And while the key trading partners France and the Netherlands posted solid growth numbers, other European economies did not.

Spain and Portugal posted anemic growth, and Greece's debt-burdened economy contracted 1.5 percent. As one economist said of Germany: The current growth rate is hardly sustainable.

Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Berlin.

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