Merkel says euro rate of $1.30-$1.40 'normal'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that a euro exchange rate of $1.30-$1.40 was "normal", in an unusual comment on foreign exchange markets.

"Euro rates of between 1.30 and 1.40 (against the dollar) are normal in the historical context of the euro," Merkel told an economics conference here, amid concerns in some quarters that the euro is too strong against other currencies.

She said that Germany was determined to push for a "free movement" of exchange rates and says that in this respect the recent statement by finance ministers from the group of 20 developed and developing countries was a "good signal".

At a recent meeting in Moscow, G20 powers undertook not to target specific exchange rates or devalue currencies to make them more competitive, amid concerns of "currency wars".

Some eurozone countries, notably France, have expressed concern that the level of the euro, which has risen recently on the foreign exchange markets, could hurt exports and dampen any nascent recovery in the eurozone.

And some have accused Japan of deliberately trying to engineer a lower exchange rate for its currency, the yen, in a bid to boost exports.

The yen has tumbled over the past few months, as the Bank of Japan has vowed to implement aggressive monetary easing.

Without mentioning Japan directly, Merkel noted that "we are again seeing that there are still efforts to maybe weaken one's own currency through certain monetary policy measures and therefore create better export opportunities."

She said: "We at least do not think a great deal of carrying out an active exchange rate policy."

This seemed to be a veiled attack on French President Francois Hollande who said recently that the external value of the euro should not be left to market forces.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi told the European Parliament on Monday that the euro was "around its long term average" and said it was crucial for leaders to exercise what he called "very, very strong verbal discipline."

"I think the less we talk about this the better," said Draghi.

In a wide-ranging speech to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the German Council of Economic Experts, Merkel also touched upon world trade, saying the multilateral Doha Round of trade talks was "unfortunately in a stalemate."

She said: "We must simply accept that we are not moving forward with the Doha Round. The world has decided to organise itself in a variety of bilateral trade deals."

However, progress towards a transatlantic free trade agreement was a "good message," said the chancellor.

The German Council of Economic Experts describes itself as "an academic body advising German policy makers on questions of economic policy."

The independent body, established in 1963, is often known colloquially as the "five wise men" as there are always five people on the board.

Until the appointment of Beatrice Weder di Mauro in August 2004, the board members were exclusively men. Now the board is made up of four men and one woman, Claudia Buch.

Merkel's comments appeared to weigh only slightly on the euro exchange rate, however. In midday deals, the European single currency stood at $1.3379, down from $1.3390 late in New York on Tuesday

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