Much of the debate over global rebalancing has focused on the U.S.-China trade imbalance. But that’s missing the bigger picture. With the growth of cross-border supply chains—a signature feature of Asia’s trade in recent decades—it would be misleading to focus on bilateral imbalances and exchange rates. Instead of specializing in producing certain types of final goods, Asian exporters increasingly have specialized in certain stages of production and become vertically integrated with each other. So, as Asia’s economies strive to rebalance their growth models, we need to understand better how the regional supply chain affects the way exchange rates and shifts in global demand work.
Before the global economic crisis, mainstream macroeconomists had largely converged on a framework for the conduct of macroeconomic policy. The framework was elegant and conceptually simple, and it seemed to work. From the early 1980s on, macroeconomic fluctuations were increasingly muted, and the period became known as the “Great Moderation”. Then the crisis came. If nothing else, it forces us to do a wholesale reexamination of those principles. This raises questions that will keep us busy for years to come. To start exploring the answers, David Romer, Michael Spence, Joseph Stiglitz, and I have organized a conference at the IMF on March 7-8. Here are some ideas to get the conversation started.
Almost unnoticed amidst the difficulties in western Europe, the other half of the continent has begun to recover from the deepest slump in its post-transition period. In our fall 2010 Regional Economic Outlook, the emerging economies in central and eastern Europe are projected to grow by 3¾ percent this year and next—a relief after the 6 percent decline in 2009. But the boom years before the crisis had left much of the region addicted to foreign-financed credit growth, making it very vulnerable to a disruption in capital inflows. So, as the region emerges from the crisis, the big question is how do we avoid a repeat?
Achieving a “strong, balanced, and sustained world recovery”—to quote from the goal set in Pittsburgh by the G-20—was never going to be easy. It requires much more than just going back to business as usual. It requires two fundamental and complex economic rebalancing acts: internal and external rebalancing. These two rebalancing acts are taking place too slowly. As the latest World Economic Outlook reveals, the result is a recovery which is neither strong, nor balanced, and runs the risk of not being sustained.
Once upon a time, those tracking international reserves focused on simple measures of reserve adequacy—enough to cover, say, 3 months of imports or all of the external debt maturing over the next year. However, the relevance of such yardsticks evaporated as a number of countries accumulated reserves that far surpass such levels, partly in reaction to emerging market financial crises of the 1990s and early part of this decade. Brazil’s reserves now exceed $200 billion, while Russia’s are more than $400 billion—and even these numbers are dwarfed by China’s reserves, which top $2,000 billion.
Reserves are rising, driven by emerging markets and, increasingly, low-income countries