Strong demand from outside Europe pushed exports from Germany, Europe's biggest economy, to a record high last year.

This offset the effects of the economic troubles of its neighbours, official data showed today.

Germany exported goods and services worth €1.097 trillion in 2012, up 3.4% on the year before, the Federal Statistical Office said.

The previous record of some €1.06 trillion was set in 2011.

Exports have been a traditional motor of growth for the German economy. Last year, they were pulled higher by an 8.8% increase in exports to countries outside the European Union, which totaled €471.7 billion.

However, exports to other countries in the 27-member EU, which still account for more than half the total, were down 0.3% at €625.7 billion.

And there was a 2.1% drop in exports to Germany's partners in the 17-nation euro zone, where several countries are in recession. Those totaled €411.9 billion last year.

Germany's overall export figures for the year's final months were less spectacular - underlining expectations that the country's gross domestic product shrank significantly in the last quarter of 2012, though the economy has since shown signs of picking up.

The statistical office said that, in seasonally and calendar-adjusted terms, exports crept up 0.3% in December after two large declines in the previous three months. Exports were down 1.3% compared with November.

Germany's exporters' association, BGA, said the December figures suggested that demand in the US and Asia could not compensate for the effects of Europe's lingering crisis at the end of the year.

Its chairman, Anton Boerner, said in a statement that "the consequences of the financial and economic crisis have yet to be mastered" and voiced concern at the possible fallout from what he termed "Japan's decision to manipulate its exchange rate for the purpose of encouraging foreign trade."

Germany has benefited from a relatively competitive euro exchange rate. The new government in Japan has indirectly pushed up the value of the single European currency in relation to the yen and other currencies by following a more aggressive economic policy.

Today's figures show that German imports were up a more modest 0.7% last year at €909.2 billion. The country's foreign trade surplus hit its second-highest annual level since records began in 1950, the statistical office said, rising to €188.1 billion from €158.7 billion in 2011. The record of €195.3 billion dates back to 2007.

Germany lost its crown as the world's biggest exporter in 2009 to China, which has powered further ahead since.