German trade surplus rises alongside US tensions

Frankfurt am Main (AFP) – Germany’s trade surplus ticked upwards in January, official data showed Friday, as attacks from the Trump White House over the nation’s export strength intensify.

Europe’s largest economy exported 18.5 billion euros ($19.6 billion) more than it imported, according to preliminary data adjusted for seasonal and calendar effects from federal statistics office Destatis.

Exports increased 2.7 percent over December’s figure to 103.8 billion euros, while imports added 3.0 percent to reach 85.3 billion.

In a year-on-year comparison, exports added 11.8 percent to January 2016’s figure, slightly outpacing the 11.7-percent increase for imports.

Expanding surpluses for Germany are unlikely to calm rhetoric from the White House, which has promised to act on President Donald Trump’s complaints about seeing more German cars on American roads than American cars in Germany.

In 2016, the United States was Germany’s biggest export customer, importing 107 billion euros of goods while selling back just 58 billion.

Destatis did not issue country-by-country figures Friday, but German exports to non-EU countries picked up at 17.7 percent year-on-year in January, far outpacing intra-EU trade, which added 8.0 percent.

While the United States has long complained about German trade surpluses, the rhetoric has been ratcheted up since Trump’s inauguration.

Top White House trade advisor Peter Navarro targeted Germany and China in a speech Monday, promising action against “currency manipulation and other forms of trade cheating”.

The new US administration has argued that the euro single currency gives Berlin an unfair advantage, making its exports cheaper than they would be if the nation had its own money.

But German leaders have rejected the allegations, saying the euro is managed by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt on behalf of all 19 member nations.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is set to meet US counterpart Steven Mnuchin for the first time next week, at a gathering of finance ministers and central bankers from the G20 group of industrialised and emerging economies in Baden-Baden, southwest Germany.

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