c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Treasury singled out Germany for criticism in a report released Wednesday that said Berlin’s reliance on exports was holding back its struggling partners in the European Union.

The criticism echoes longstanding complaints from European economists and international banks. But it was notable because it was included in an unusual forum: a semiannual report that usually focuses on currency manipulation. The timing may reflect the United States’ wish to influence German economic policy as Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her new government after recent elections.

The document, the Report to Congress on International Economic and Exchange Rate Policies, outlines the practices of America’s top trading partners over the first half of 2013, concluding that none “met the standard of manipulating the rate of exchange between their currency and the United States dollar” in order to gain an unfair trade advantage.

But it noted, as it often does, that China’s currency, the renminbi, was not appreciating “as fast or by as much as needed.” The report said that Chinese efforts to intervene in foreign exchange markets seemed to have again escalated as concerns about the worldwide economy recede.

Yet Germany was a focus of particular — and unusual — scolding from the Obama administration, which said that Berlin’s “anemic pace of domestic demand growth and dependence on exports have hampered rebalancing” and hurt its struggling EU partners. For decades, Germany’s manufacturers have produced more than its residents demand, sending more of its relatively low-cost goods into the international market than what it imports. Weaker economies like those in Spain, Portugal and Greece struggle to compete.

German policymaking — and that of Europe as a whole — has been virtually halted since before the elections in late September, and Merkel has been in negotiations to form a new government. The Obama administration needed to weigh in now, said Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, to “have an impact on German economic policy going forward.”

Germany’s policies have also driven export surpluses in the EU as a whole, to the detriment of the United States and other major exporters, Kirkegaard said. He said he doubted that German officials would “pay the least attention to this finger-pointing.”