Soviet trade with the West, which last year posted its first surplus in three years, slumped back into deficit in the first quarter of this year, according to statistics published on Saturday.

The foreign trade journal Vneshnyaya Torgovlya said trade with the Western industrialized nations during the January-March period was in the red by $1.62 billion. This followed a surplus of $487 million for the whole of 1987 and compared with a deficit of $877 million in the first three months of that year.The statistics showed that trade with the United States rose dramatically during the first quarter of 1988 compared with the same period in 1987 - from $254 million to $941 million.

Earlier this year 500 American businessmen visited Moscow to explore trade opportunities opened up since Kremlin leader Mikhail Gorbachev gave Soviet enterprises freer access to the world market. A number of joint venture contracts were signed.

West Germany remained the Soviet Union's biggest Western trading partner at the start of 1988 with total turnover of $2.9 billion compared with $1.8 billion in the first quarter of 1987.