Boost as Ireland records third-best trade surplus
IRELAND recorded the third-best trade surplus in the EU in the first three months of the year, thanks to rising exports and stable imports.
Germany and the Netherlands recorded the best trade figures, ahead of Ireland, but big economies including the UK, France and Spain all registered large deficits.
Irish companies exported €10.3bn more than they imported in the period from January to the end of March.
The German surplus of €45bn was the biggest of any European economy, followed by the Dutch with €11.8bn.
The UK recorded a huge trade deficit of €37.1bn in the first three months of the year, suffering in part because the weakening euro has driven up the cost of UK exports in European markets. The figures are for trade in goods, excluding traded services such as financial services and media, which is likely to flatter the German data and under-represent UK trade.
However, estimates for April show that the UK trade-in-goods deficit is likely to have worsened further, hit in particular by declining car sales.
Irish exports of goods were just 1pc higher in the first three months compared with a year earlier, but the volume of goods and services bought abroad was unchanged.
The latest surplus figure looks vulnerable, however, as the economy in Ireland's nearest and closest trade partner comes under renewed pressure.
The euro area as a whole recorded a small trade-in-goods surplus in the three months of the year, after falling into deficit in 2011.
Initial estimates for April 2012 show that the positive trend is likely to have continued for the 17-member single currency, a rare piece of positive news.
Initial figures from Eurostat, the official statistics agency, show the eurozone recorded a €5.2bn surplus in the volume of goods traded with the rest of the world in April. In the same month last year, the eurozone bought €4.5bn more than it sold.
Estimates show that the trend is reversed across the 27-member European Union, which includes the large, non-euro economies like the UK, Sweden and Poland.
Early estimates show a deficit of €12bn for the EU as a whole in April, though it marks an improvement compared with a €17.2bn deficit in April 2011.
Energy is Europe's biggest import, with the EU energy deficit a whopping €110bn.
In contrast, the union sold €77bn more goods than it imported in the first three months of the year.