Stronger Renminbi the solution to PIIGS economies?

Franz Nauschnigg wrote a piece in Project Syndicate about an emerging imbalance in the goods and services deficits that Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain (PIIGS) have with China. Up to 2004 the biggest deficits of the PIIGS economies was with the rest of the eurozone. But in subsequent years the figures were the following:

Combined deficits of PIIGS 2004 – 2011 (bn euro)
PIIGS deficit table

PIIGS deficits

From the figures you can see that over the last 4 years the deficit with China has remained significant while it has narrowed with the eurozone especially with Germany. There are two reasons for this:

1. The euro has appreciated against the renminbi.
2000 – € = ¥7.4
2007 – € = ¥10.4

With this appreciation the eurozone countries exports became less competitive. The early 2000’s saw a lot of investment into the PIIGS economies which increased inflation and prices.

2. With the southern economies dependent on textiles, footwear etc the stronger euro made Chinese imports a lot cheaper than the domestic alternative. The IMF acknowldeged the fact that Chinese exports were responsible for the deficits in the PIIGS but Northern Europe wasn’t as badly affected as their export focus is more machine based which China is not able to compete with.

With monetary and fiscal expansion becoming ineffective external adjustments under three conditons might be the answer:

1. Stronger external demand
2. A less onerous financing environment
3. A weaker euro

Much of the above could be achieved by a weaker euro against the renminbi. This would provide the boost to export revenue and reduce fiscal and external deficits.

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