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December 12, 2013
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International criticism of Germany’s current account surpluses has reached new heights. The persistent surpluses are often seen as worsening, if not causing, the European crisis by impairing the peripherals’ capacity to export. Still, even taken individually, most arguments put forward do not hold water. As there is little evidence that Germany is manipulating relevant parameters, one should accept that the surpluses are the result of individual decisions of largely private agents in Germany and abroad. Politicians and commentators may be unhappy with the result, but they should not blame Germany. Rather, they ought to insist that the peripheral countries continue to improve their own competitiveness. Higher minimum wages and rising social security contributions will be a burden for the domestic economy in the medium term and hence weigh on import growth. [more]