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German current account surplus to hit record, world's largest in 2016
[BERLIN] Germany's current account surplus is expected to have hit a new record of US$297 billion in 2016, overtaking that of China again to become the world's largest, the Munich-based Ifo economic institute said on Monday.
This would be equivalent to 8.6 per cent of total output, which means it would once again breach the European Commission's recommended upper threshold of six per cent. In 2015 the current account surplus stood at US$271 billion.
The European Commission and the United States have urged Germany to lift domestic demand and imports to help reduce global economic imbalances and fuel global growth, including within the euro zone.
Germany rejects such criticism, saying it already lifted domestic demand by introducing a national minimum wage in 2015 and agreeing on a strong hike in pension entitlements in 2016. In addition, the government has increased state spending on roads, digital infrastructure and asylum seekers while sticking to its goal of keeping a balanced budget.
Ifo estimated China's current account surplus at US$245 billion last year due to weaker exports. By contrast, the United States is predicted to have the world's largest capital imports, with a deficit of US$478 billion for 2016, Ifo said.
Ifo's current account estimate for Germany is lower than a previous estimate of US$310 billion.
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on Thursday that the country's record current account surplus is likely to shrink in 2017 because a slowdown in global trade is dampening export growth while strong domestic demand is pushing up imports.