Rome, January 23 - Italy's trade balance outside of Europe was higher last month than at any other time in at least 20 years, the national statistics agency said Wednesday. Italy's balance of trade with countries outside the European Union reached 3.3 billion euros in December 2012 - its greatest monthly number since 1993, when Istat began keeping records. And for all of 2012, the trade surplus outside of the EU - meaning the value of exports that exceeded imports into Italy - reached almost 2.1 billion euros, the highest level since 2003, the agency said. That year, the annual trade surplus hit 3.1 billion euros. The monthly trade surplus record in December smashed the previous high point of 2.9 billion euros recorded in July 1997, says Istat. These trade numbers suggest that, given the recession roiling many European economies, Italian firms are finding success in markets outside of Europe. According to Istat, Italy's "most dynamic" export markets in 2012 included OPEC nations, where Italian sales jumped by almost 25%; Japan, where sales increased by 19%; other parts of Asia, up 18.5%; and the United States, where sales increased by almost 17%.