Record German trade surplus underlines criticism country isn't importing enough from eurozone

BERLIN – Germany’s trade surplus widened in September to a record high in a development that underlines criticism that Europe’s largest economy is not importing enough to boost other economies in Europe.

The Federal Statistical Office reported Friday that exports were up 1.7 per cent to 92.8 billion euros ($124 billion) in September over August, when adjusted for seasonal and calendar differences. Imports dropped 1.9 per cent to 73.9 billion euros.

As a result, the trade surplus in September hit a record high 18.8 billion euros, up from a revised 15.8 billion euros in August.

The United States a week ago criticized Germany for its large trade surplus, saying it was causing problems for its partners in the 17-country eurozone — importing goods and services from countries like Greece and Spain could help shore up those debt-laden economies. It urged Germany to push for more domestic-led growth.

The International Monetary Fund has also joined in the criticism, saying that a smaller surplus by Germany is the only way to even out the imbalances that plague the eurozone.

Since the creation of the euro in 1999, the currency union has become split between countries that run up surpluses and ones that run chronic deficits — and gotten into trouble with excess debt. The argument is Germany should buy more from other countries and support growth elsewhere in the eurozone.

Germany insisted Friday that there was no purpose to be served in making its economy less competitive. They have pressed other eurozone members to reduce their budget deficits and improve growth prospects through reforms that cut excessive labour costs — as Germany did a decade ago.

“If you look at the way our exports have developed you’ll clearly see that the strongest growth hasn’t been in the eurozone, but outside,” said Martin Kotthaus, a spokesman for the Finance Ministry.

He added that wages had risen strongly in Germany in recent months and the country has committed to investing more in infrastructure projects — both of which boost domestic demand.

“We can’t recognize any substance in the sometimes quite harshly levelled criticism,” he said.