Greece’s trade balance and growth rate of its gross domestic product (GDP) gave a completely contradictory picture in the first quarter of 2003, according to data released by Eurostat in Brussels yesterday. The trade balance showed a further deterioration in relation to the fourth quarter of 2002, with exports falling faster than any other European Union member state’s, but imports also receding; exports fell 2.8 percent – against an EU average decline of 0.6 percent – and imports 1.1 percent. The value of Greek exports in this period was 7.13 billion euros, the lowest among the 15, and that of imports 9.5 percent. By contrast, the country’s GDP growth rate far outpaced any other member state’s, rising 2.9 percent in relation to the previous quarter when the economy had contracted by 0.3 percent. The EU average growth in the first quarter was a mere 0.1 percent and the second highest rate was Sweden’s, 0.6 percent. Four members registered negative growth, most prominently Finland’s at 1.3 percent. The German economy contracted 0.2 percent. In contrast, Greece’s growth rate year-on-year was 4.3 percent. Domestic demand appeared to provide the main engine for growth, advancing 3 percent over the previous quarter to a net value of 39.6 billion euros; the EU average was just 0.5 percent. The inability of Greece’s National Statistics Service to provide analytical data in time did not allow Eurostat to show what part of domestic demand growth was due to the public sector and projects and which to the private sector and households. The data shows that the value of Greek exports equals about one-sixth of domestic demand; far lower than in any other EU member, providing another measure of the unenviable state of the country’s competitiveness.