Germany’s much-vaunted trade surplus shrank in 2022, official data showed Thursday, as soaring energy prices in the wake of the Ukraine war pushed up the cost of imports.
Germany exported goods to the value of 1.56 trillion euros ($1.7 trillion), up 14 percent on a year earlier, federal statistics agency Destatis said in seasonally adjusted figures.
But imports rose by more than 24 percent to 1.48 trillion euros, resulting in a trade surplus of 76 billion euros.
Destatis said it was “the lowest surplus” since 2000 and down by more than half compared with last year’s 173.3-billion-euro figure.
The bill for imports rose much more strongly “on account of the sharply increased prices of energy” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the agency said.
It is the fifth consecutive year that the trade surplus has narrowed in Europe’s biggest economy, it added.
The United States remained the top destination for “made in Germany goods”, while China was once again the largest source of imports.
The shrinking surplus in export champion Germany comes at a time of growing concern about the competitiveness of European companies in the face of US plans for a major subsidy package to green its economy.
The European Union is working on proposals to counter the threat, including a possible relaxation of state aid rules.
Germany’s BDI industry association on Thursday called for “swift, concrete results” on the issue.
It also urged the government to pursue EU-level trade agreements with “important partners” such as Latin American countries, India or Indonesia to diversify trade ties.
“The aim must be to drive forward the internationalisation of the German economy,” it said.