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German exports, imports reach record heights in March

FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2016 file photo shipping containers are stacked on a ship in the port in Hamburg, Germany. German exports rose to a new record high in March, but were outpaced by imports to slightly narrow the trade surplus, while factory production dropped slightly, according to two reports Tuesday, May 9, 2017, from Europe's largest economy. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, file)

BERLIN (AP) — German exports rose to a new record high in March, but were outpaced by imports to slightly narrow the trade surplus, while factory production dropped slightly, according to two reports Tuesday from Europe’s largest economy.

Germany has been oft criticized by the U.S. and others for its large trade surplus over accusations its exports have been profiting from a relatively weak euro, and that the country’s not doing enough to spur domestic demand for foreign goods.

Berlin counters that products made in Germany are simply better than the competition.

The Federal Statistical Office said exports hit an all-time high in March, rising 0.4 percent over February to 105.4 billion euros ($114.9 billion), while imports also set a new record with an increase of 2.4 percent to 85.8 billion euros in figures adjusted for seasonal and calendar variations.

That left the March trade surplus at 19.6 billion euros, down from 21.2 billion euros in February in adjusted terms.

In unadjusted figures, exports totaled 118.2 billion euros, while imports reached 92.9 billion euros for a trade surplus of 25.4 billion euros. A year earlier, the monthly surplus amounted to 25.8 billion euros.

“Given that only one third of all German exports go to other eurozone countries, it is obvious who has been one of the main beneficiaries of the weak euro,” said ING economist Carsten Brzeski in a research note. “In this regard, even today’s narrowing of Germany’s trade surplus will do little to undermine the permanent international criticism of Germany’s current account surplus.”

German exports to EU member states rose 8.7 percent in March to 68 billion euros, compared to March 2016, while imports were up 13.5 percent to 61.1 billion.

The greatest growth came from outside the EU, however, with exports to non-EU countries rising 13.9 percent to 50.3 billion euros in March, and imports increasing 15.7 percent to 19.8 billion.

In a separate report, the Statistical Office said German factory production dropped 0.4 percent in March over the previous month, according to adjusted figures, driven by weaker production of energy and capital goods. That followed a 1.8 percent rise in industrial production in February.

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Frank Jordans contributed to this report.

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