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Germany is the real winner in a transfer union - FT.com

Start with a simple point about exchange rates. Since 2009, stable open economies from Brazil to Switzerland have seen hot inflows of money and upward pressure on their currencies. If Germany had not been tethered to the euro, its money would have behaved like the Swiss franc, spoiling the recent party in its manufacturing heartland. Between August 2009 and May 2011, German exports jumped by 18 per cent. A reasonable estimate suggests they would have risen only 10 per cent if Germany had been outside the euro.

Conversely, if peripheral Europe had not been tethered to the euro, its currencies would have fallen over the same period. Rather than facing a financial shock and a crisis of competitiveness, they would have faced the first without the second. Of course, the currency union that makes adjustment in the periphery so excruciating is the very same currency union that handed Germany its export boom. Rather than condemning lazy southerners, the Germans should share the loot.

Germany has benefited more than it acknowledges through the monetary channel, too. During the euro's first decade, interest rates across the eurozone fell towards German ones, and low-saving southern countries appeared to derive a subsidy from the credit rating of high-saving northern ones. But, far from being a boon to the periphery, centralised monetary policy proved appropriate for the EU's mature core, but too loose for inflation-prone catch-up economies. By an irony that inflation-hating Germans have trouble seeing, Ireland and Spain suffered property and banking busts at least partly because monetary policy was too German. Rather than scorn the losers, Germany should compensate them.

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by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 25th, 2011 at 11:50:07 AM EST

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