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Competitiveness and external imbalances within the euro area

The onset of the financial crisis in 2008 has highlighted the problems of diverging external imbalances within Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the role of persistent losses in competitiveness. This paper starts by investigating some of the competitiveness factors which contributed to external imbalances in euro area countries. The evidence suggests significant heterogeneity across countries in both price/cost and non-price competitiveness in the euro area and that there is no one factor, but rather a range of potential factors explaining diverging external imbalances. In particular, while non-price competitiveness effects contributed largely to the trade surplus in some countries, for some southern European countries the trade balance was also driven by price factors. The second part of the paper studies the implications of competitiveness adjustment by means of quantitative tools. Using four different multi-country macro models, improvements in both price/cost aspects (namely wage reduction, productivity improvements or fiscal devaluation) and non-price competitiveness factors (quality improvements) were shown – under certain conditions – to improve external imbalances. The analysis suggests differences in countries’ composition of trade could lead to heterogeneity in the potential gains from improvements in competitiveness. JEL Classification: F30, E60, E65, E44

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Paper provided by European Central Bank in its series Occasional Paper Series with number 139.

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Date of creation: Dec 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbops:20120139
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  1. Emanuele Breda & Rita Cappariello & Roberta Zizza, 2008. "Vertical specialisation in Europe: Evidence from the import content of exports," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 682, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
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  10. Holm-Hadulla, Fédéric & Kamath, Kishore & Lamo, Ana & Pérez, Javier J. & Schuknecht, Ludger, 2010. "Public wages in the euro area - towards securing stability and competitiveness," Occasional Paper Series 112, European Central Bank.
  11. Ratto, Marco & Roeger, Werner & Veld, Jan in 't, 2009. "QUEST III: An estimated open-economy DSGE model of the euro area with fiscal and monetary policy," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 222-233, January.
  12. Bricongne, Jean-Charles & Fontagné, Lionel & Gaulier, Guillaume & Taglioni, Daria & Vicard, Vincent, 2012. "Firms and the global crisis: French exports in the turmoil," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 134-146.
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  14. Schmitz, Martin & De Clercq, Maarten & Fidora, Michael & Lauro, Bernadette & Pinheiro, Cristina, 2012. "Revisiting the effective exchange rates of the euro," Occasional Paper Series 134, European Central Bank.
  15. Yvonne Wolfmayr, 2008. "Producer Services and Competitiveness of Manufacturing Exports," FIW Research Reports series I-009, FIW.
  16. Lukas Vogel, 2011. "Structural reforms and external rebalancing in the euro area: a model-based analysis," European Economy - Economic Papers 443, Directorate General Economic and Monetary Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
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