February 11, 2019 / 1:05 PM / in 12 days

Exclusive: German trade surplus with U.S. declined in 2018 but was still almost 49 billion euros

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s trade surplus with the United States, a frequent source of tension with U.S. President Donald Trump, declined last year but nonetheless remained at around 49 billion euros ($55.37 billion), data seen by Reuters showed on Monday.

FILE PHOTO - Aerial view of containers at a loading terminal in the port of Hamburg, Germany August 1, 2018. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

Trump has frequently criticized the large trade surplus that Europe’s biggest economy has with the United States and has threatened to put tariffs on German cars in return.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel has questioned Trump’s analysis, saying that trade surpluses were calculated in an old-fashioned way and that the United States runs a large account surplus with Europe if services are included in the total.

In June, Merkel suggested that existing international trade accounting systems should be updated.

Preliminary calculations from the Federal Statistics Office showed that German exports to the United States rose by 1.5 percent to a record high of 113.5 billion euros in 2018.

That meant the United States remained the biggest buyer of “Made in Germany” goods — ahead of France, which purchased 105 billion euros’ worth, and China, which bought 93 billion euros’ worth.

German imports from the United States increased by around 4 percent to 64.6 billion euros.

That meant the surplus with the United States was around a billion euros smaller than in 2017. But it was still the largest surplus Germany has with any country and accounts for more than a fifth of Germany’s overall export surplus of around 228 billion euros in 2018.

China remained Germany’s most important trade partner in 2018, with the two countries exchanging goods worth almost 200 billion euros.

German exports to China increased by around 8 percent to 93 billion euros last year while imports from China rose by around 4 percent to 106 billion euros.

Reporting by Rene Wagner; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Catherine Evans

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