BRUSSELS (AP) -- Eurozone exports fell 18 percent in 2009 as world trade contracted and the euro soared against the U.S. dollar, according to official EU data published Wednesday.
The EU statistical agency Eurostat said the 16 countries that use the euro also consumer far less foreign goods last year, with imports from the rest of the world down 22 percent, as a recession held back company and consumer spending.
Eurozone exports to Britain, the eurozone's major trading partner, were down 22 percent while exports to the U.S. fell 20 percent. China was the only major economy to buy more eurozone goods, with a 2 percent increase, as it escaped the worst of the global downturn.
Total eurozone exports were euro1.27 trillion ($1.74 trillion) last year, outpacing imports for a trade surplus of euro22.3 billion for the entire year.
Before market tensions about the debt problems of countries like Greece hurt the euro in recent weeks, European businesses complained that the high value of the currency was hurting their ability to sell French wine or German cars to customers using dollars in the U.S. or Asia.
For the 27-nation European Union, exports fell 16 percent while imports dropped 23 percent. It reported a trade deficit of euro105.5 billion.