Thursday, January 09, 2014

German trade surpluses and the eurozone economic crisis

This is an interesting little piece in the Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Deutschland hat keinen Exportüberschuss im Euro 09.01.2014, trying to diss criticism of Germany for its high trade surplus and its eurozone policy.

"Manche Kritiker sehen in den Handelsüberschüsses auch einen der Gründe für die Schuldenkrise in vielen Euro-Ländern" ("Some critics see in the trade surplus also one of the reasons for the debt crisis in many euro countries"), says the unsigned piece employing a version of the "some say" ploy that FOX News is so fond of using. The FAZ piece makes the point that, hey, trade between Germany and the other eurozone countries is pretty much in balance. So there!

The piece doesn't give enough detail to look further at the trade balance whose statistics it displays in chart form. But the argument just quoted is an obvious straw-man. They probably had to use the formula "some critics" because they would be hard put to find some leading critic of the German trade surplus as being a cause of the eurozone debt crisis, much less the trade balance between Germany and other eurozone countries.

What critics are saying is that solving the eurozone economic crisis that makes much of the debt problem unsolvable would require Germany to pursue a stimulative policy within Germany itself, which would include accepting higher inflation, in order to create more demand within Germany that would among other things increase German imports from eurozone countries and thereby stimulate their economies. And that would mean a reduction in Germany's trade surplus. US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was reported making an argument along these lines in an article to which the FAZ piece links in the sentence before the one quoted above.

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