Exports jumped 21.5 percent year-on-year to EUR 12.21 billion in December of 2018, boosted by higher sales of chemicals and related products (24.1 percent), led by medical and pharmaceutical products (21.3 percent) and organic chemicals (43.7 percent). In addition, exports rose for machinery and transport equipment (36.6 percent), mainly due to electrical machinery, apparatus and appliances nes and parts (28 percent); and miscellaneous manufactured articles (4 percent), particularly miscellaneous manufactured articles nes (4.1 percent) and professional, scientific and controlling apparatus nes (6.9 percent).
Shipments to the EU grew 15.4 percent to EUR 6.45 billion, representing 52.8 percent of total exports, of which EUR 1.96 went to Belgium and EUR 1.37 billion to Great Britain. The US was the largest non-EU destination accounting for EUR 2.51 billion, or 20.6 percent of total exports.
Meanwhile, imports advanced 22.9 percent to EUR 8.61 billion, mainly due to higher purchases machinery and transport equipment (60 percent), of which other transport equipment, including aircraft (109.1 percent). Also, imports went up for food, beverages and tobacco (20.7 percent); crude materials, inedible, except fuels (18.2 percent); mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials (25 percent) and miscellaneous manufactured articles (4.6 percent); while import of chemicals and related products (-26.1 percent) declined.
Imports from the EU rose 10 percent to EUR 4.71 billion in December, accounting for 54.7 percent of total goods purchases. Also, imports from Great Britain went up 4.1 percent to EUR 1.7 billion and those from France increased 20.7 percent to EUR 1.3 billion. The US with EUR 1.43 billion, or 16.6 percent, and China with EUR 0.5 billion, or 5.6 percent, were the main non-EU sources of imports.
Considering 2018, the trade surplus widened to EUR 50.66 billion from EUR 43.44 billion in 2017, as sales grew 14.8 percent to EUR 140.8 billion and imports went up at a softer 13.8 percent to EUR 79.27 billion.