Greece is having hard times. The Greeks hope they can export more stuff in order to earn more money.
The problem is that Greece isn’t the only nation trying to export and run a current account surplus. It’s not even the most successful of the neo-mercantilist states: look to Japan and China as champs in those roles. The US wishes it could export more stuff, though, and resents the way China keeps exporting everything from inside its borders that isn’t nailed down.
That’s the danger sign: resentment in trade issues. When the world economy is going through hard times, some nations can weather the storm better than others by running a current account surplus. It’s just that for every current account surplus, there has to be an equal and opposite deficit somewhere else. When the nations in deficit despair of ever running a surplus, they can turn to protectionist trade policies to at least stop running up the deficits.
When the protectionist barriers go up in one place, other nations follow suit to the point where world trade is choked off and no nation is running a current account surplus and all nations endure the brunt of those hard times.
It happened in the 1930s. There’s a possibility it happens in the 2010s. And when it does happen, it does not help the nations that ran a huge trade deficit – because there goes their current account surplus that was investing in their nation.