Germany's trade surplus last year fell for the first time since 2009, data showed on Thursday, in a further sign that vibrant domestic demand is sucking in more imports and slowly re-balancing the country's export-oriented economy.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has come in for criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump's administration for Berlin's large trade surplus with the United States, while scepticism towards free trade is mounting in some poorer euro zone countries.
International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has also urged Germany to increase domestic spending and boost imports, warning that the build-up of large current account surpluses in countries such as Germany is partly responsible for the rise of protectionism elsewhere.
"The improvement of the trade balance is driven by imports and not by exports," Dekabank analyst Andreas Scheuerle said. "This means we don't have to put on the brakes on exports. This is a win-win-situation."