Euro zone expands trade surplus despite protectionist calls

The euro zone recorded a 30.9 billion euro (S$47.7 billion) surplus in March in its goods trade balance with states outside the bloc, Eurostat reported on May 16, 2017.
The euro zone recorded a 30.9 billion euro (S$47.7 billion) surplus in March in its goods trade balance with states outside the bloc, Eurostat reported on May 16, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - The euro zone increased its trade surplus with the rest of the world in March with both exports and imports rising markedly, in a sign that global commerce has so far not been hampered by protectionist calls.

The European Union statistics office Eurostat said on Tuesday the 19-country currency area recorded a 30.9 billion euro (S$47.7 billion) surplus in March in its goods trade balance with states outside the bloc, according to data not adjusted for seasonal factors.

The March surplus is nearly double that of February when the bloc has a positive balance of 17.8 billion euros, and also higher than a year earlier when the surplus was 28.2 billion euros.

The 19-country bloc, driven by Germany, expanded its exports by 13 per cent in March on a yearly basis to a total value of 202.3 billion euros, unadjusted figures show.

Imports to the bloc also increased by 14 per cent, although from a lower basis, showing that trade flows have not been affected by growing protectionist calls, such as from US President Donald Trump.

Exports of the 28 EU countries to the United States in the first quarter increased by 11 per cent compared with the same quarter last year.

Imports from the US rose a more modest 4 per cent, resulting in an expanded EU trade surplus with the U.S. totalling 30.6 billion euros from 23.6 billion euros recorded in the first quarter of 2016.

The EU increased its exports to all major trade partners in the first quarter of this year, with a 28 percent surge in sales to Russia and 22 per cent increase in exports to China.

Imports from China grew only 3 per cent, reducing the EU trade deficit with Beijing to 41.7 billion euros from 47.3 billion euros a year ago.

Figures adjusted for seasonal factors showed the euro zone surplus was 23.1 billion euros in March from 18.8 billion euros in February, with a 1.4 per cent increase in exports on the month and a 1.1 per cent drop in imports.