Germany Rejects Targeting Of Trade Surplus

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BRUSSELS (AP) - Export champion Germany said Tuesday that trade surpluses should not be treated the same as deficits, foreshadowing the difficulties France will face in trying to smooth out global imbalances as officials from the Group of 20 rich and developing countries meet this week.

"One has to clearly distinguish deficits from surpluses," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said at the sidelines of a meeting of European finance ministers in Brussels.

Germany, like China, has been exporting much more than it has been importing in recent years, building up surpluses that some say destabilize the global economy.

The European Union is also trying to even out trade imbalances within the eurozone, claiming they helped fuel bubbles in deficit countries and contributed to the debt crisis that has crippled the region over the past year.

But Schaeuble said that Germany's surplus was "not an obstacle to growth in other countries. Instead we are to some degree assuming the function of a locomotive for the euro area."

The debate over global imbalances lost some of its momentum after a meeting of G20 leaders in Soul last year failed to come up with clear commitments.

However, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said this week that when G20 finance ministers meet in Paris Friday and Saturday, her country will aim to reach an agreement on a list of indicators that can be used to measure imbalances.

That was one of the key takeaways from the last G20 meeting in Seoul in November. The next step will be to agree on numerical thresholds for the indicators that will serve as alarm bells when imbalances get too large.

France's presidency of the G20 this year has as its main goal reform of the global monetary system, reducing volatility in commodity prices and finding new sources of financing for the G20's effort to combat climate change and aid developing countries.