German exports rose in December as solid trade with China and the US helped Europe's largest economy as it struggles to grow under the restrictions of a lockdown aimed at suppressing the Covid-19 case load.  

Seasonally adjusted exports edged up 0.1% on the month after an increase of 2.3% in November, the German Federal Statistics Office said.

Imports fell 0.1% after an increase of 5.4% in the previous month. 

Germany's trade surplus expanded to €16.1 billion but in 2020 as a whole the surplus fell for a fourth year in a row. 

In December, exports to China increased by 11.6% on the year. Those to the US rose by 8.4%, the Office said. 

But the robust trade with China and the US, contrasted with weakness from Britain. Exports to the UK decreased by 3.3% in December and imports from the UK fell by 11.4 %. 

Germany's DIHK Chambers of Industry and Commerce said Britain's departure from the European Union was having a negative impact on German-British business and a trade agreement could only partly compensate for the downturn. 

Sebastian Dullien at the IMK economic institute said: "Trade with the United Kingdom is expected to decline noticeably again in the first months of 2021. Supply bottlenecks for chips are currently hampering car production and thus dampening exports." 

"Overall, the global economy is expected to pick up in the coming months and exports are also expected to grow more strongly again," Dullien added. 

The German government last month slashed its GDP growth forecast to 3% this year, a sharp revision from last autumn's estimate of 4.4%. This means the economy probably won't reach its pre-pandemic level before mid-2022. 

Germany's industrial sector avoided a contraction in December despite coronavirus lockdowns at home and abroad as strong demand from China helped export-oriented manufacturers. 

Once a role model for fighting the pandemic, Germany has struggled with a second wave of Covid-19. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders are due to review lockdown measures tomorrow. Bavaria's premier said on Sunday it was too soon to lift restrictions.