German imports soared more than expected in January, outperforming an also surprisingly strong rise in exports, in a further sign that Europe's biggest economy is benefitting from growing global fortunes.
In the month of January, Germany exported goods and services worth 103.8 billion euros ($110 billion), while shipments to Germany amounted to 85.3 billion euros, according to official data released Friday.
Both figures marked significant increases over December, when they had surged 2.7 percent and 3.0 percent respectively, the German statistics office, Destatis, said.
Volker Treier, economist of the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK), noted that demand from emerging markets, such as China, Brazil, Russia and India, had picked up especially strongly. "After their lackluster performance in the past year, exports are rebounding in 2017," he added.
Destatis data showed that over the year exports to non-EU countries increased 17.7 percent in January, far outpacing shipments to EU countries, which added 8.0 percent.
Controversial trade surplus
Although the German trade gap with the rest of the world remained roughly the same with 18.5 billion euros in January, compared to 18.4 billion euros in December, the fact that Europe's biggest economy was again exporting more than it took in is likely to cause further controversy around the world.
The new US administration has targeted Germany, alongside China, for their ongoing trade imbalances, which in the case of Germany resulted in a record overall surplus of 252.9 billion euros last year, making it the world's biggest.
In 2016, the United States, for example, imported goods and services from Germany to the tune of 107 billion euros, while selling back just 58 billion.
That prompted White House trade advisor Peter Navarro to accuse Germany of manipulating the euro currency with the aim of making its exports cheap and imports from the US expensive.
But German leaders have rejected allegations of unfair trade practices, saying the euro is managed by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt on behalf of all 19 member nations.
Nevertheless, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has promised to discuss the trade surplus with his US counterpart Steven Mnuchin on the sidelines of G20 finance ministers' meeting next week.
uhe/mm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)