"Last year our country achieved a trade surplus of about 10 billion euros. It's a result we haven't reached in about 10 years," Industry Minister Corrado Passera said at a trade event to launch an export drive.
For the first 11 months of 2012, Italy posted the biggest surplus for the 11-month period since 2002, National statistics agency Istat said earlier. However, the reversal was largely because cash-strapped Italians cut back on buying imported goods.
"This is a fake surplus, because it's mainly due to the incredibly sharp drop in internal consumption," economist Claudio Borghi Aquilini told Reuters.
"No one is spending because either they don't have money, they fear for the future, or they fear taxes. The internal market of Italy is dead."
Rising exports have helped offset a slump in domestic demand in Italy although the euro zone's third-biggest economy remains in recession.
Speaking at the trade event, outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti said exports were "an irreplaceable fuel in the motor of the Italian economy".
"If it weren't for exports, our country, which must meet a large bill for energy imports, would be in a very delicate and much weaker financial situation," Monti said.
Italian imports fell 5.6 percent in the first 11 months of 2012 compared to the same period last year, reflecting weak domestic consumption, Istat said.
Exports rose 4.3 percent in the same period, driven by sales of consumer goods and exports to non-EU countries. (Reuters)