"Christine Lagarde said Berlin should consider boosting domestic demand to help deficit countries regain competitiveness and sort out their public finances. Her comments break a long-standing taboo between the French and German governments about macroeconomic imbalances inside the 16-country bloc which have been dramatically exposed by the Greek debt crisis.Ben Hall, "Lagarde criticizes Berlin policy", FT 14 mars
'[Could] those with surpluses do a little something? It takes two to tango,' she said in an interview with the Financial Times. 'It cannot just be about enforcing deficit principles.'
'Clearly Germany has done an awfully good job in the last 10 years or so, improving competitiveness, putting very high pressure on its labour costs. When you look at unit labour costs to Germany, they have done a tremendous job in that respect. I’m not sure it is a sustainable model for the long term and for the whole of the group. Clearly we need better convergence.'
After Wolfgang Schäuble, her German counterpart, last week proposed a European Monetary Fund associated with much stiffer penalties for breaking the EU’s fiscal rules, Ms Lagarde outlined her own thinking about closer economic policy co-ordination, laying bare the different visions of 'economic government' held by Paris and Berlin.
While not ruling out an EMF, she said it was not a priority for the eurozone. The bloc should first focus on ensuring that debt-laden Greece followed through on promised austerity measures and then show 'a bit of creativity and innovation' to find scope within the existing EU treaty for beefing up budgetary surveillance and discipline.
Rather than amending a treaty to set up an EMF – 'an adventure that could take us another three, four, five years' – the eurozone should adopt its own 'soft laws' to strengthen discipline.
Ms Lagarde said much tougher sanctions as proposed by Mr Schäuble were 'worth exploring'. But she preferred faster surveillance procedures and less painful but more realistic penalties, pointing out that the existing threat of a fine under the EU’s fiscal rules 'is so far away and unlikely that it is not really a deterrent'.
Ms Lagarde made clear the biggest difference between Germany and France – and other eurozone members - is over whether Berlin should boost internal demand to give a lift to its partners’ export industries.
It was a 'very sensitive issue', she acknowledged. 'I talk to Wolfgang [Schäuble] on an almost daily basis at the moment. The issue of imbalances is not one we address readily.'
The rest of the eurozone could not expect too much of Germany, Ms Lagarde said. France and other governments had to make efforts to increase the competitiveness of their economies and reform their public sectors to reduce deficits. She paid tribute to Ireland which was 'driving hard'.
'You can’t ask one player, as big as it is, to pull the whole group. But clearly there needs to be a sense of common destiny that we have together with our partners.'"
Gerrit Wiesmann & Quentin Peel, "Germans join ranks to rebuff Lagarde criticism", FT 16 mars
- jfr 18 april 2008, "Tysk löneutveckling".
UPPDATERING 10 mars 2011
Nu rapporterar FT att importerna till Tyskland ökar snabbare än exporterna, vilket tolkas som att Tysklands exportorienterade modell håller på att mjukas upp:
"Germany’s hefty trade surplus, running at €153bn, will shrink in the coming year as imports grow faster than exports, helping to boost growth in the wider eurozone, the German foreign trade association (BGA) has forecast.Quentin Peel, "Rise in German imports to balance economy", FT 9 mars
At the same time, German exports are likely to top €1,000bn ($1,389bn) for the first time in 2011. Germany’s share in global exports will rise from 9 per cent to 9.5 per cent, confirming its position as the most successful exporting nation after China, Anton Börner, president of the BGA, said on Wednesday.
He predicted that imports to Germany would rise 12 per cent during the year, to reach €903bn, with a 10 per cent rise in purchases from other members of the European Union, and 15 per cent from non-EU countries.
The figures suggest the German economy is becoming less dependent on a model of export-led growth, criticised by some other eurozone governments, as increasing domestic demand sucks in imports."