An alternative interpretation of trade imbalances between member countries of the European Monetary Union is put forward with respect to Blanchard and Giavazzi (2002). It is argued that one of the causes of the present imbalances in foreign accounts lies in disparities as regards the productivity of labour coupled with the concomitant convergence of nominal wages and hence growing differences in the unit cost of labour among member countries. In particular, Italy and the other countries of southern Europe register the most significant rises in unit costs and are therefore in greatest danger of growing trade deficits. The article also examines the possibility of foreign deficits giving rise to crises in government budget on the basis of a logical model in which foreign accounts "predominate" over public accounts. It closes with some observations as to the real effectiveness of any policy seeking to remedy foreign deficits through a further spread of labour flexibility and more intense wage deflation.
Jel Code: E31, F32, F36, F41, H6