German exports up 6.3 percent in 2017, hit record

FILE - In this July 1, 2017 file photo containers are stacked on 'Zheng He' of China at the container terminal of the harbor of Hamburg, Germany. Germany's exports increased by 6.3 percent in 2017, beating the previous year's record, authorities said Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. Imports rose by an even stronger 8.3 percent, also hitting record levels. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, file)

BERLIN — Germany's exports increased by 6.3 percent in 2017, beating the previous year's record, authorities said Thursday. Imports rose by an even stronger 8.3 percent, also hitting record levels.

Europe's biggest economy exported goods worth 1.279 trillion euros ($1.577 trillion) last year, the Federal Statistical Office said. It didn't give a detailed geographical breakdown of the destinations, but said that exports to both European Union countries and nations outside the 28-nation bloc were up 6.3 percent. Exports to the EU, at 750 billion euros, accounted for well over half the total.

Germany's imports swelled to 1.035 trillion euros, with goods from outside the EU gaining a little more strongly. EU imports totaled 682.5 billion euros.

Exports have long been a mainstay of the German economy, though strong domestic demand has taken over as the main driver of economic growth. Germany's export strength has brought the country criticism from abroad.

Germany's trade surplus last year came in at 244.9 billion euros, down from the previous year's record of 248.9 billion euros, the statistical office said.

"The discussion about the German trade surplus should ease up" because imports rose faster than exports, said the director general of the Federation of German Industries, Joachim Lang.

He said that "protectionism, a disorderly Brexit and the loss of confidence in free trade and open markets remain dangers" and called on politicians to secure Germany's success on global markets — in particular by quickly ratifying an EU-Canada trade deal and concluding trade negotiations with Mexico and South America's Mercosur bloc.

In December, German exports edged up 0.3 percent compared with the previous month in seasonally and calendar-adjusted terms, while imports were up 1.4 percent.

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