The United States has surpassed the European Union as China’s biggest export market, its Commerce Ministry said Tuesday.

“The EU used to be the biggest,” ministry spokesman Shen Danyang told AFP. But the eurozone debt crisis has hurt demand from the continent and it has yielded the top spot to the US. Chinese exports to the United States reached $289.3 billion in the first 10 months of this year while EU accounted for $276.8 billion, according to figures from China’s customs.

Economic growth in the US remains weak but is expanding, while Europe’s economy took a turn for the worse with the debt crisis. Demand from both countries has slumped and is seen as a major factor in China’s slowing economy over the past seven quarters to the end of September, AFP reports.

China predicts that it would be hard to meet its full year target of 10% foreign trade growth this year due to weak overseas demand, particularly from Europe and Japan. China’s foreign trade increased 6.3% in the first 10 months of the year from the same period last year.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations had moved past Japan as China’s third largest export market as ties between Tokyo and Beijing deteriorated over a territorial row, Mr. Shen said. Chinese exports to Japan in the first months of the year amounted to $125.3 billion compared to $163.9 billion to the 10 ASEAN countries.