Monthly Archives: October 2013

The 2013 Globie!

Once a year I choose a book that deals with some aspect of globalization in an interesting and illuminating way, and award it the “prize” for the Globalization Book of the Year (also known as the “Globie”). Previous winners are listed below. This year (for only the second time), I have two titles to recommend.

The first is The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire by Neil Irwin of the Washington Post. Irwin describes the responses of Ben Bernanke of the Federal Reserve, Mervyn King of the Bank of England and Jean-Claude Trichet of the European Central Bank to the financial and economic crisis that began in 2007. The account of how each man reacted to the crisis is quite riveting. Bernanke emerges as the policymaker who most quickly understood the magnitude and consequences of the implosion in the financial markets. The narrative also provides an overview of central banks and monetary policy.

Angus Deaton of Princeton University deals with very different aspects of globalization in The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality. In the first part he offers an account of the medical and other advancements that have contributed to prolonging our lives, and how uneven that progress has been across nations. The second part of the book deals with inequality, first within the U.S. and then the rest of the world. The last section presents his view that foreign aid has failed to assist nations that have not shared in the improvements in the human condition. Deaton, a well-respected development economist, combines historical with economic analysis to explain the reasons why so many of us live longer and in better circumstances, and why so many others have not yet made that transition.

Globalization Books of the Year





Pietra Rivoli The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade


Jeffry A. Frieden Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century


Kwame A. Appiah Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers


Farid Zakaria The Post-American World


Alan Beattie False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World


Stephen D. King Losing Control: The Emerging Threats to Western Prosperity 


Gideon Rachman 

Dani Rodrik

Zero-Sum Future: American Power in Age of Anxiety  

The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy


Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

U.S. and Them

Among the causalities of the U.S. budget dispute has been the chance to enact crucial changes at the IMF. Leaders of the G20 nations agreed in 2010 on the proposals that require approval by member governments to be implemented. The U.S., however, is delaying its endorsement, and as a result the enactment of the measures has been put on hold.

There are two proposals under review. One stems from the IMF’s 14th General Review of Quotas, and the second takes the form of an amendment to the IMF’s Articles of Agreement. Among the changes that would follow from their implementation are:

  • A doubling of the amount of funds available to the IMF through the quotas of its members to about $720 billion, scheduled to take place in January 2014.
  • A shift of six percentage points of quota, which are the basis of voting shares as well as financial contributions, to emerging market countries.
  • The establishment of an all-elected 24-member Executive Board in place of the current system that allots individual seats to the Fund’s five largest members. A reallocation of two seats from the European members to emerging market countries will also occur.

Are these changes important? The increase in total quota would not change the IMF’s current capability to assist countries in crisis. Member governments agreed to lend directly to the IMF in the wake of the 2008-09 crisis through a plan known as the New Arrangements to Borrow. The proposed quota increase would make access to the additional credit consistent with the IMF’s use of its quota resources, and would be offset by a reduction of the NAB.

The change in relative quota shares, on the other hand, would lead to a long-overdue realignment of the relative quotas of the member countries. All four BRIC nations would appear on the list of the ten members with the largest shares. The current ten largest members and the proposed new line-up are:

Rank Current Proposed
1. United States (17.67) United States (17.41)
2. Japan (6.56) Japan (6.46)
3. Germany (6.11) China (6.39)
4. France (4.50) Germany (5.59)
5. United Kingdom (4.50) France (4.23)
6. China (4.00) United Kingdom (4.23)
7. Italy (3.31) Italy (3.16)
8. Saudi Arabia (2.93) India (2.75)
9. Canada (2.67) Russia (2.71)
10. Russia (2.49) Brazil (2.32)

The reallocation of seats on the Executive Board is the logical counterpart of the quota realignment. The change in how representation is arranged would open the way for the Europeans to form coalitions to appoint common representatives, such as one for the Eurozone. Such a grouping, because of the size of its combined quota, could increase the influence of the Europeans at the IMF.

James Boughton, former IMF historian, believes that changing quotas and votes should have little impact on decision making. Votes are rarely taken, and the emerging market nations are unlikely to push the IMF in a different direction, particularly now that the IMF has adopted a new view on capital flows and the use of capital controls. But Boughton also claims that the reforms are vital to preserve the IMF’s creditibility. The current allocation of quotas and seats on the Executive Board is a relic of the political and economic landscape of the post-World War II era when the IMF was established. The Europeans are overrepresented on the Executive Board and the Managing Director of the IMF continues to be a European. Officials of the emerging market countries have expressed their impatience with the delay in changing the allocations in response to their growth.

Ratification of the reform measures requires approval of 85% of the total voting power of the IMF’s members, and the U.S. has a share large enough (16.75%) to prevent passage. Why has the U.S. not approved the changes? Congressional support is needed, and that has been held back. The basic reason for the delay is the same as the reason why Congress resisted raising the debt ceiling: politics. The Republican Chair of the House Financial Services Subcommittee has stated that he will consider the quota increase only if it is included within a proposal for fiscal consolidation.

But the failure of the U.S. to support the reforms also reveals an emerging drift towards isolationism. This reflects weariness with foreign wars as well as the slow recovery from the 2008-09 crisis. The latter was marked by the end of the domination of the G7 in international economic governance. We are still waiting to see whether the G20 will be an effective replacement. But the ability of any coalition to exercise leadership will be limited if the world’s largest economy turns away.

Chinese officials were incensed at the possibility of a default on U.S. debt. Further delay of the IMF reforms only reinforces the impression that the U.S. no longer takes its international responsibilities seriously. The inward turn of U.S. politics signals a further retreat from the internationalist vision that created the IMF and other multilateral institutions.

Great Britain, it was claimed, gained an empire “…in a fit of absence of mind.” The U.S. may, on the other hand, lose its global position through indifference.

In and Out

Two recent IMF publications offer different perspectives on how policymakers should handle capital outflows. One outlines a tactical response to an unplanned reversal, while the second provides a strategy to prepare for volatility before it occurs.

The first approach appears in an IMF Policy Paper, Global Impact and Challenges of Unconventional Monetary Policies. Most of the paper deals with the effects of unconventional monetary policies (UMP) designed to restore the operations of financial markets and/or to support economic activity when the central bank’s policy rate has hit the lower bound. The measures include the purchase of bonds not usually bought by a central bank and forward guidance on interest rates. The paper draws upon the experiences of the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank, and the Federal Reserve.

The paper also deals with the possible challenges posed by the eventual winding down of the UMP both within the countries that have implemented them and in non-UMP countries. The authors of the report warn that ”In non-UMP countries, currencies will depreciate (to balance changes in relative bond returns) and bond yields might rise…” They further caution that “Some capital flow reversal and higher borrowing costs are to be expected, but further volatility could emerge, even if exit is well managed by UMP countries.” The report points to one source of volatility: “Further amplification could come from the financial system, where stability could be undermined as non-performing loans rise, capital buffers shrink, and funding evaporates.”

What can the non-UMP policymakers do to offset or least minimize this turbulence? Relatively little, according to the report. Central banks should maintain their credibility through appropriate monetary policies (always a good idea), allow some change in their exchange rates (but avoid disorderly adjustment!), and reverse measures that were implemented during periods of capital inflows (but only if this does not endanger financial stability!). The IMF offers to coordinate national policies to curtail negative spillovers, and promises to provide credit as needed. The IMF’s message for the non-UMP countries, therefore, seems to be: A storm is coming! It might be bad! Close the windows and doors, and place your faith in a higher power (conveniently located at 700 19th Street in Washington, DC)!

A different message comes from the authors of Chapter 4 of the IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook, entitled “The Yin and Yang of Capital Flow Management: Balancing Capital Inflows with Capital Outflows.”  Its authors make the distinction between those emerging market countries that respond to capital inflows through a current account deterioration (a “real” adjustment) versus those with offsetting capital outflows (“financial” adjustment). They find that the latter group registered a smaller response to the 2008-09 global financial crisis, as manifested in changes in GDP, consumption and unemployment. The former group includes Argentina, India and Turkey, while the latter group includes Brazil, Mexico and Thailand. The authors attribute the better experience of those countries that experienced “financial adjustment” to several factors, including the repatriation by their residents of their foreign assets to smooth consumption in the face of a shock.

Of course, the withdrawal of assets from foreign countries is feasible only if those assets are relatively liquid. Evidence on this aspect of the financial crisis comes from Philip Lane in his authoritative account of the role of financial globalization in precipitating and propagating the global crisis, “Financial Globalisation and the Crisis,” which appeared in Open Economies Review  (requires subscription). He reports that emerging economies were “long debt, short equity” in the period preceding the crisis. Their assets consisted of liquid foreign debt that they could draw upon if needed, while their liabilities were in the form of FDI and portfolio equity. The advanced economies, on the other hand, followed the opposite strategy of “long equity, short debt,” which was profitable but hazardous once the crisis hit.

There is another way, however, to evaluate the strategy of “financial adjustment.” Countries that match inflows with outflows have less exposure on a net basis, and net exposure may be tied to the occurrence of an external crisis. A recent IMF working paper by Luis A. V. Catão and Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti, “External Liabilities and Crises,” reports that the risk of a crisis increases when net foreign liabilities rise above 50% of GDP and the NFL/GDP ratio rises 20% above a country’s historic mean. Moreover, when they examine exposure on different classes of liabilities, they find that the increase in crisis risk is linked to net debt liabilities.

Financial adjustment, therefore, was a successful strategy for minimizing the capital flow volatility for several reasons. The emerging market countries that implemented it lowered their international financial exposure and issued risk-sharing equity rather than debt. They were therefore less vulnerable than those countries with more liabilities that included relatively more debt. Given the cyclical nature of capital flows, such prophylactic measures should be enacted before the next storm arrives.

Assigned Readings: October 9, 2013

This paper investigates the potential impacts of the degree of divergence in open macroeconomic policies in the context of the trilemma hypothesis. Using an index that measures the relative policy divergence among the three trilemma policy choices, namely monetary independence, exchange rate stability, and financial openness, we find that emerging market countries have adopted trilemma policy combinations with the least degree of relative policy divergence in the last fifteen years. We also find that a developing or emerging market country with a higher degree of relative policy divergence is more likely to experience a currency or debt crisis. However, a developing or emerging market country with a higher degree of relative policy divergence tends to experience smaller output losses when it experiences a currency or banking crisis. Latin American crisis countries tended to reduce their financial integration in the aftermath of a crisis, while this is not the case for the Asian crisis countries. The Asian crisis countries tended to reduce the degree of relative policy divergence in the aftermath of the crisis, probably aiming at macroeconomic policies that are less prone to crises. The degree of relative policy divergence is affected by past crisis experiences – countries that experienced currency crisis or a currency-banking twin crisis tend to adopt a policy combination with a smaller degree of policy divergence.


A central result in international macroeconomics is that a government cannot simultaneously opt for open financial markets, fixed exchange rates, and monetary autonomy; rather, it is constrained to choosing no more than two of these three. In the wake of the Great Recession, however, there has been an effort to address macroeconomic challenges through intermediate measures, such as narrowly targeted capital controls or limited exchange rate flexibility. This paper addresses the question of whether these intermediate policies, which round the corners of the triangle representing the policy trilemma, afford a full measure of monetary policy autonomy. Our results confirm that extensive capital controls or floating exchange rates enable a country to have monetary autonomy, as suggested by the trilemma. Partial capital controls, however, do not generally enable a country to have greater monetary control than is the case with open capital accounts unless they are quite extensive. In contrast, a moderate amount of exchange rate flexibility does allow for some degree of monetary autonomy, especially in emerging and developing economies.


The more severe a financial crisis, the greater has been the likelihood of its management under an IMF-supported programme and the shorter the time from crisis onset to programme initiation. Political links to the United States have increased programme likelihood but have prompted faster response mainly for ‘major’crises. Over time, the IMF’s response has not been robustly faster, but the time sensitivity to the more severe crises and those related to fixed exchange rate regimes did increase from the mid-1980s. Similarly, democracies had tended to stall programme initiation but have become more supportive of financial markets’ demands for quicker action.

Reality and Illusion

U.S. Senators and Representatives have urged President Obama to place the issue of currency manipulation on the agenda for the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact (see here). The lawmakers claim that China and Japan manipulate their exchange rates in order to boost exports at the expense of U.S. firms. In the current political environment, this may be the only issue on which there is bipartisan agreement.

The charge that China manipulates its exchange rate is less relevant today than it was several years ago. The Chinese currency has appreciated against the dollar since 2005, although the pace of this rise has moderated. Moreover, the Chinese have made clear that they will not accept linking exchange rates to trade talks. Blaming the Japanese for currency manipulation revives memories of the 1970s and 1980s when concerns about Japan’s economic might were common. The subsequent decline in Japan’s relative fortunes might give pause to those who fear Chinese predominance.

The fall in the value of the yen is due to “Abenomics,” the economic policies introduced by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after his election in December 2012 to stimulate the Japanese economy. These include aggressive monetary expansion by the Bank of Japan, which raised its inflation target to 2% and promised to double the size of the monetary base over a two-year period. Not surprisingly, this has led to a 25% depreciation of the yen against the dollar.

The U.S. lawmakers are responding to those developments. But they should be careful in their finger-pointing. The Federal Reserve’s Quantitative Easing 1, 2 and 3, which were implemented to stimulate the U.S. economy, led to charges of “currency wars” by foreign finance ministers. Barry Eichengreen, however, has pointed out that these policies were not implemented to depreciate the dollar but to stimulate the U.S. economy, and will have positive externalities for other nations. This differs from intervention in the foreign currency market undertaken to keep an exchange rate undervalued to boost exports. Bergsten and Gagnon claim that more than 20 countries manipulate their economies in this manner.

There is another interesting aspect of the U.S criticism. The prices of Japanese goods in the U.S. are determined by the real exchange rate, i.e., the nominal rate adjusted by the U.S. and Japanese price levels. Japanese prices have fallen in recent years, which by itself would result in a depreciation of the yen’s real exchange rate. The five-year averages of the annual rates of change in the Japanese and U.S. GDP deflators show this trend very clearly:

% GDP Deflator Japan U.S.
1998-2002 -1.06 1.78
2003-2007 -1.27 2.87
2008-2012 -1.34 1.78

The causes of Japanese deflation have been the subject of much research (and dispute): see, for example, here and here. Ito and Mishkin hold the Bank of Japan’s monetary policy largely responsible for the fall in prices during this period. The increase in the Bank of Japan’s targeted inflation rate is intended to break that trend.

But why didn’t U.S. officials criticize this aspect of Japanese monetary policy? Perhaps because the yen was appreciating in nominal terms, which partly offset the cumulative impact of the decline in Japanese prices on U.S.-Japanese trade (and was hardly evidence of a currency manipulator). But this may also be an example of the “money illusion” that exists with respect to exchange rates. Observers often overlook the distinction of real and nominal rates. The impact of Chinese inflation on the real exchange value of its currency, for example, is usually ignored or not understood (but see here). U.S. policymakers who confuse the two should not be surprised when their indignation is not met with a respectful response.

Here and There: October 3, 2013

1. Jérémie Cohen-Sutton has a review at the Bruegel blog of the recent literature on the trilemma. He provides links to the relevant papers.

2. Michael Hutchison of the University of California-Santa Cruz and Helen Popper of the University of Santa Clara have organized this year’s West Coast Workshop on International Finance and Open Economy Macroeconomics on October 11. The program is here.