Minnesota’s exports rose slightly in the third quarter, as companies expanded their businesses in China, Taiwan, Canada and Germany even as sales slowed in most of the rest of the world.

Companies in Minnesota sold $5.1 billion worth of products to the world in the three-month period that ended in September, up 1 percent from the same period in 2011, according to figures released Thursday by the Minnesota Trade Office. The figures do not include exports of services, a growing portion of Minnesota's global business reach.

Manufacturing accounted for $4.6 billion of the total. Manufactured medical exports accounted for $813 million, 19 percent growth over the same period last year.

"China and Europe, particularly countries outside the European Union, had the biggest export gains in the third quarter," said Ed Dieter, acting executive director of the state’s trade office, in a statement. "China, our second-largest market, was especially strong, with sales up 16 percent from a year ago.

Foreign sales account for about 7.5 percent of Minnesota's economic output. The state's immediate neighbor to the north, Canada, remains the largest foreign market by far, accounting for about 30 cents of every export dollar.

China is second largest and growing fast. Despite news of a recent economic slowdown, exports to China grew 16 percent compared to last year. Minnesota firms sold $632 million in goods to China in the third quarter. Sales in Taiwan rose 27 percent in the quarter, launching that country into the top ten export markets on the strength of electrical machinery and non-electrical medical products.

Still, state officials would rather exports were growing faster.

Gov. Mark Dayton announced in March an initiative designed to double exports from the Twin Cities by 2017.To reach that goal, businesses in the metro area would have to increase exports at the brisk pace of nearly 15 percent per year.

Exports may be growing, but not that quickly. And weakness in parts of Europe and Asia still weigh on Minnesota exporters.

Sales in the state’s third and fourth largest markets, Mexico and Japan, fell 7 percent and 5 percent. Exports to Germany rose 4 percent despite the unending European financial crisis. No other major European economy posted a gain in the quarter.

Exports to South Korea fell 14 percent in the three months ending September.