Ireland\'s trade surplus hit a record high in 2011, increasing by 3.0 percent to 44.697 billion euros ($58.347 billion) compared with the previous year, official data showed on Friday. Exports rose by 4.0 percent to 92.936 billion euros, while imports grew 5.0 percent to 48.238 billion euros, the Central Statistics Office said in a statement. The CSO said it was \"the highest annual surplus on record.\" Ireland, a eurozone member which has received an EU-IMF bailout worth 85 billion euros, is relying heavily on exports to revive its fortunes after the economy was battered by the global financial crisis. Jobs and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said the strong export growth confirmed the potential for the wider recovery of Ireland\'s economy. \"This government has consistently pointed out that a strong export performance will be crucial to achieving the economic and jobs recovery we are all working so hard for,\" he said in a statement. \"Despite the warnings of some commentators about our exports, recent weeks and months have seen some encouraging signs in the global economy as well as some further signs that the Irish economy has stabilised and is returning to sustainable growth,\" Bruton added. Ireland\'s trade surplus meanwhile surged 20 percent to 3.246 billion euros in January on a 12-month basis, the CSO added on Friday. The trade surplus gained 8.5 percent in January compared with December 2011, as exports rose 9.1 percent and imports increased by 9.6 percent month-on-month.