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欧债危机:德国进退两难,抉择影响全球

Shawn Tully 2011年08月25日

德国需要作出选择:要么放弃欧元区接受经济增长停滞,要么继续援助衰弱的欧元区伙伴国家。两种选项对德国来说都好不到哪里去。

    对德国来说,两种情形的代价都将十分高昂。德国从欧元中获益匪浅,正如著名的国际经济学家罗伯特•阿利伯所说:“德国生产力增长速度比其邻国快得多,因此随着时间流逝,其出口竞争力也越来越大。”

    实际上,欧元人为地使德国产品在国际市场上特别廉价,同时使意大利、葡萄牙和希腊等脆弱经济体的产品过于昂贵。与过去的德国马克相比,欧元相当“疲软”,给德国带来了竞争优势,使其对中国和其他亚洲国家的出口蓬勃增长,其中,汽车和机械设备尤为畅销。

    简而言之,欧元区给德国带来了巨额贸易顺差,同时给其南欧伙伴国家带来了巨额逆差。如果欧元区瓦解,意大利、西班牙和希腊货币的汇率将会急剧下跌,大幅降低其物价,促进商品出口,同时遏制进口,这些国家的贸易赤字以及国际市场对德国商品的需求将会骤然下降。德国则会面临恰恰与此相反的效应,新马克相对于其贸易伙伴的货币的汇率将会飙升,其汽车和机械设备在国际市场上的价格将远远高于现有水平。受此影响,亚洲自己的机械工业将迎来发展良机。

    一夜之间,德国就会丧失在全球市场呼风唤雨的地位,该国繁荣赖以存在的庞大贸易顺差将会迅速消失殆尽。

    “一旦德国的贸易盈余不复存在,该国将会陷入严重衰退,”希腊著名的经济学家雅尼斯•瓦鲁法克斯说。过去十年来,德国的国际竞争力之所以强大,除了廉价货币的因素外,也与该国限制工资涨幅有关。可是,这种薪酬政策创造了庞大的工薪贫困阶层,也就是拥有工作但工资很低,因此仍然够得上福利发放标准的人群。瓦鲁法克斯指出:“货币升值后,德国企业若想要恢复竞争力,就得通过裁员降低成本,因此退出欧元意味着工薪贫困阶层有可能沦为失业者。”

    默克尔显然非常明白坚持原则的代价。因此,可能出现这样的情形:欧洲央行和欧洲金融稳定基金无法长期压低国债收益率,届时欧洲将迎来摊牌时刻,德国将作出重大的历史性让步,鼎力保卫欧元区——这个体系虽志存高远,却从未给经济相对脆弱的成员国带来经济上的改观,但它毕竟使德国获益匪浅,而盟友们现在正绝望地渴求德国的回报。

    译 小宇

    For Germany, the costs of either scenario would be enormous. Germany has profited mightily from the euro. "It has shown far more rapid gains in productivity than its neighbors," says Robert Aliber, the distinguished international economist. "So over time, its exports have become more and more competitive."

    In effect, the euro made German products artificially cheap on world market, and rendered those of weaker economies such as Italy, Portugal and Greece excessively expensive. The edge of a "weak" currency, compared to the old Deutsche Mark, also enabled Germany to garner booming sales in China and other Asian countries hungry for its cars and machine tools.

    In effect, the eurozone helped bring big surpluses to Germany, and large deficits to its southern partners. If it splinters, the exchange rates for Italian, Spanish and Greek currencies would fall sharply, lowering the prices, and raising sales, of their exports, and doing the opposite with imports. Their deficits -- and demand for German goods -- would collapse. Germany would suffer from the reverse effect. Its Neue Mark would soar versus its trading partners' currencies, making its cars and machine tools far more expensive around the globe. Asia will have another reason to make its own machinery.

    Overnight, Germany will lose its status as a conqueror on world markets. Its enormous trade surplus, the source of its prosperity, would quickly vanish.

    "Once the German surpluses are gone, the country would fall into a severe recession," says prominent Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis. Germany has succeeded in the past decade of becoming highly competitive not just by maintaining a relatively cheap currency, but by limiting the growth in wages. But that policy created a large contingent of working poor, people who have jobs but also qualify for welfare payments because of their low salaries. "To restore competitiveness after their currency appreciates, German companies would need lower costs by laying off workers. So exiting the euro risks turning the working poor into the unemployed," says Varoufakis.

    It's certain that Merkel is acutely aware of the price of clinging to principle. Hence, the probable outcome is the following: The ECB and the EFSF won't succeed at holding down rates for long. The moment of reckoning will indeed arrive. And Germany will make a grand and historic concession to protect the eurozone, the system that so enriched it, and despite its grand ambitions, did nothing to improve the performance of the weak partners now desperately seeking its help in return.

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