German trade surplus widens in October as drop in imports outpaces slight decline in exports

BERLIN – Germany’s trade surplus grew in October as imports declined more steeply than exports, official data showed Tuesday.

Exports were down 0.5 per cent while imports fell 3.1 per cent over September in seasonally adjusted terms, widening the trade surplus for Europe’s biggest economy by about 2 billion euros ($2.5 billion) to 20.6 billion euros, the Federal Statistical Office said.

In unadjusted terms, the Statistical Office says Germany exported 103.9 billion euros of goods in October, exceeding the former record high of 102.5 billion euros set in September.

ING economist Carsten Brzeski said the figures show more evidence of Germany’s economic rebound and that euro’s recent decline has helped Europe’s largest economy.

Looking ahead, Brzeski says “a weaker euro is probably the best thing that could happen to both Germany and the eurozone.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel and other officials have stressed the importance of a planned free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States, though the hoped-for accord has run into growing concern and suspicion among German and other European consumers, who worry about food standards and other issues.

Merkel said Tuesday that Germany has an opportunity to anchor high environmental and consumer protection standards in free-trade deals such as the trans-Atlantic pact, but “we have to hurry.”

“We can’t spend the whole day expressing reservations — we must say that we want to set standards worldwide and so we must be one of the first and not one of the last,” Merkel said at a convention of her conservative party in Cologne.

“The world won’t wait for us.”