China remains Germany's biggest trading partner in 2017

BERLIN (Reuters) - China was Germany’s top trading partner again in 2017, steaming past the United States for the second consecutive year, official German data showed on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: People check out the new BMW M760Li xDrive as it is presented during the Auto China 2016 auto show in Beijing April 25, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo

The trade figures also showed that Germany exported less to Britain last year, a trend that trade association BGA said would continue as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

Germany’s total trade with China rose to 186.6 billion euros ($230 billion) last year, from 170.2 billion in 2016, according to the figures from the Federal Statistics Office.

The United States, which was briefly Germany’s biggest trading partner in 2015 when it usurped France, remained the biggest export market for German companies, however.

The data highlights the importance of both China and the United States for Germany, Europe’s largest economy.

U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized Germany’s large global trade surplus and the data showed the United States had the biggest bilateral trade deficit with Germany last year, at 50.5 billion euros.

“Neither Trump’s verbal attacks nor the stronger euro so far have put the brakes on exports to the United States,” said Holger Bingmann, head of the BGA trade association.

Britain had the second-biggest bilateral trade deficit with Germany at 47.2 billion euros, and Britain and the United States together accounted for roughly 40 percent of Germany’s global trade surplus, which edged down to 245 billion euros in 2017.

German exports to Britain dropped to 84.4 billion euros last year, from 85.9 billion euros in 2016, and means that Britain, which was Germany’s third biggest export market in 2016, is now only its fifth most important market.

“The uncertainties created by Brexit have already had an impact and give a pretaste of what one probably will have to expect,” Bingmann said. “Already now, Britain has fallen behind two ranks in the list of Germany’s most important export markets.”

France, which was Germany’s biggest trading partner for more than five decades until 2015, is now in fourth place. The Netherlands became Germany’s second-biggest trading partner.

France’s bilateral trade with Germany totaled 169.4 billion euros last year, but it remained the second-most important export destination for German goods with purchases of 105.2 billion euros, the data showed.

China was the third biggest market with 86.2 billion euros.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Susan Fenton