Abstract

East Germany’s external economic relations showed both its strong trade dependency on the Soviet Union, the dominant player in COMECON, and its politically willed isolation from international markets. From the 1970s onward, East Germany—like nearly all COMECON states—expanded its trade with the West to close gaps in its domestic market and to acquire the technology it lacked.

East German Foreign Trade (1956–85)

Source

Regional Breakdown of GDR Foreign Trade
(Percentages)

Imports: Five-Year Average

Country or country
category

1956–60

1961–65

1966–71

1971–75

1976–80

1981–85

Socialist countries

72.7

75.9

72.2

64.9

65.9

66.9

of these:

--

--

--

--

--

--

COMECON
countries

65.4

71.6

68.4

62.1

62.8

64.1

USSR

43.6

47.5

42.3

33.9

35.2

40.4

Remaining
COMECON
countries

21.8

24.1

26.1

28.2

27.7

23.7

Western industrial
countries

23.3

20.1

23.9

30.9

29.0

28.9

Developing
countries

4.0

3.9

3.9

4.0

5.1

4.2

Exports: Five-Year Average

Country or country
category

1956–60

1961–65

1966–71

1971–75

1976–80

1981–85

Socialist countries

75.9

76.9

74.6

72.7

72.6

64.9

of these:

--

--

--

--

--

--

COMECON
countries

68.3

72.9

69.3

68.9

68.9

62.3

USSR

43.0

44.7

39.9

36.6

35.2

36.2

Remaining
COMECON
countries

25.3

28.2

29.5

32.3

33.7

26.1

Western industrial
countries

20.3

18.9

20.8

23.2

21.9

29.3

Developing
countries

3.8

4.1

4.6

4.1

5.5

5.8

Source: Bundesministerium für Innerdeutsche Beziehungen, ed., Materialien zum Bericht zur Lage der Nation im geteilten Deutschland. Bonn, 1987, p. 607.

East German Foreign Trade (1956–85), published in: German History in Documents and Images, <https://germanhistorydocs.org/en/two-germanies-1961-1989/ghdi:document-1070> [November 30, 2023].