German exports climbed 11.4% in 2011 to more than €1T for the first time; imports rose to €902B, also a record

BERLIN , February 8, 2012 () – German exports climbed 11.4 percent last year to top the euro1 trillion ($1.3 trillion) mark for the first time, official figures showed Wednesday, though a decline in December underlined the likelihood of slower growth ahead as Europe grapples with its debt crisis.

Imports rose by an even stronger 13.2 percent last year, also hitting a new record.

Exports have long been a mainstay of Germany's economic strength though they have been supplemented recently by stronger domestic demand — and export growth is expected to slow this year as a result of the debt problems afflicting the 17-nation eurozone and slower growth worldwide.

Germany, Europe's biggest economy and the world's fourth-largest, exported goods and services worth euro1.06 trillion ($1.4 trillion) last year, up from euro952 billion in 2010, the Federal Statistical Office said.

Germany lost its crown as the world's biggest exporter in 2009 to China, which has powered further ahead since. China's exports rose 20.3 percent last year to $1.9 trillion.

German exports to countries outside the 27-nation European Union showed the strongest growth last year, expanding by 13.6 percent to euro432.8 billion. Exports to other EU countries were up 9.9 percent at euro627.3 billion; of those, euro420.9 billion went to the eurozone, an 8.6 percent rise.

Germany's imports rose last year to euro902 billion from euro797.1 billion in 2010 in a further indication that domestic demand was on the up. They broke the previous annual record of euro805.8 billion, dating back to 2008.

Overall, the country's foreign trade surplus widened slightly in 2011 to euro158.1 billion from euro154.9 billion.

The government has forecast that exports will grow by only 2 percent this year and economic growth of just 0.7 percent. Last year, the economy grew by 3 percent; in the fourth quarter, it is believed to have contracted by up to 0.3 percent compared with the previous three-month period — actual figures are due next week.

Monthly figures indicated softness ahead.

Exports in December came in at euro85.1 billion, down 4.3 percent on the previous month when seasonal and calendar factors were accounted for. In year-on-year terms, a 5 percent gain was fueled entirely by growth in exports to countries outside the eurozone — to which Germany exported 3.3 percent less.

Imports were also down 3.8 percent at euro72.1 billion and were down 3.9 percent.

Germany's main exporters association said it remains confident for 2012 because of solid growth in major emerging economies such as China and India.

But "despite the positive outlook, we are concerned about Europe," said the BGA group's head, Anton Boerner. "It is not yet certain how far declines in orders can be compensated for by rises in orders from emerging countries."

"We must not let off in efforts to get a grip on the debt crisis," Boerner said.

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