The United States overtook Germany last year as the leading exporter of goods, regaining a spot it last held in 1989, the world's main trade body said Tuesday.
Germany's figures were hurt by the weakening European economy and the rebuilding of eastern Germany. U.S. export growth, while down slightly from 1990, rose by five times the world average.
Growth in world trade fell for the third consecutive year to just 3% in 1991, the head of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade said. Down from 5% in 1990, it was the smallest gain since 1983.
U.S. exports rose by 7.5% to $422 billion, while exports of most West European countries stagnated or shrank, the survey said.
Germany's foreign sales dropped 4.5% to $403 billion, slipping to second place. Japan, France and Britain were next.
The drop in Germany's exports was largely the result of the sluggish economies of its European trade partners and the collapse of East European sales, GATT economists said. Reconstruction in eastern Germany also consumed goods that otherwise would be exported.
U.S. export growth, while down slightly from the 8% of 1990, was broad-based. It was partly due to several years of slow wage increases and low inflation during the recession, the economists said.