This column argues that a 10% revaluation of the Chinese currency would likely increase US employment by at least 670,000. This is in stark contrast to recent Vox contributions by Simon Evenett and Joseph Francois claiming that an appreciation of the Chinese currency would reduce US employment by 400,000 to 600,000 jobs.
The current debate in the US over Chinese exchange-rate policy can be viewed as a rerun of the 1970s and ‘80s, with China taking Japan’s role. This column, which first appeared in the Vox's latest eBook, argues that while there is a relationship between current-account deficits and surpluses, causality is difficult to establish. Politics aside, even if China does not choose to appreciate its currency, inflation will eventually finish the job.
Price Fishback of the University of Arizona talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about whether the current US economic situation is really comparable to the Great Depression. He argues that today’s monetary policy response is heavily and positively influenced by the failures of the past – but that today’s fiscal stimulus is far stronger than in the 1930s and out of proportion to the problem. The interview was recorded at a conference on ‘Lessons from the Great Depression for the Making of Economic Policy’ in London in April 2010.
Does the US have a legal case against China’s exchange-rate regime? This column, which first appeared in Vox's latest eBook, argues that any claim against China at the WTO would face substantial hurdles, and would be unlikely to add pressure on China any time soon. If a claim does go ahead, it is more likely than not to fail.
Amongst other reasons, Chinese authorities hesitate to let the renminbi appreciate because they believe that a prime cause of Japan’s 20-year stagnation was its caving in to US demand for an appreciation of the yen. This column, which first appeared in Vox's latest eBook, argues that it was not caving to US pressure but resisting it that made Japanese monetary policy too lax and contributed to its asset bubble.
How have emerging markets been affected by the global crisis? This column presents evidence that countries that improved their policy fundamentals and reduced their vulnerabilities in the pre-crisis period generally came out ahead during the crisis. They experienced smaller growth collapses, had more “space” to take countercyclical policy measures, and are recovering faster.
What brought down Iceland’s banks? This column examines the revelations from the latest report from the Icelandic parliament, raising the possibility that the collapse of Iceland’s three largest banks is the result of “control fraud” where shareholders stole from their own bank in the same way as those convicted of looting from the American saving and loan banks in the late 1980s.
US Congressional committees are now grilling bankers on the complex instruments that provided subprime mortgages with a veil of security. This column presents new evidence that subprime mortgages had more serious consequences – they were a key factor in the US housing-price boom. When house prices faltered, subprime mortgage holders defaulted en masse, eventually leading to the global crisis.
Is another IT giant abusing its market position? This column describes the case of IBM – a near-monopolist in the mainframe market – being accused of preventing firm entry by tying its mainframe operating system with its hardware and withholding information for interoperability. The similarities with the Microsoft case suggest that the European Commission’s Director-General for Competition will not go easy.
Many economists argue that removing trade barriers such as the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy will be globally welfare-improving. This column presents findings from simulations that estimate the welfare effects depending on the extent of trade reform and possible policy responses. It suggests that removing the world’s price and trade distortions would reduce the number of poor people worldwide by 3%.
The key question for European policymakers and financial markets alike is now whether ‘Greece can make it’. This column reviews past episodes and suggests such huge fiscal adjustments have been possible in the past, but take at least 5 years and the debt to GDP ratio keeps on increasing during the process.
How should a government promote entrepreneurship? This column argues that providing support programmes for targeted sectors or companies is akin to “picking winners ex ante”. A far better approach is to encourage competition in the financial sector that facilitates experimentation in the real economy. Governments should forget about picking winners and focus on picking the right system.
Many commentators have argued that interbank lending froze following the collapse of Lehman Brothers. This column presents evidence from the fed funds market that, while rates spiked and loan terms became more sensitive to borrower risk, mean borrowing amounts remained stable on aggregate. It seems likely that the market did not expand to meet additional demand for funds.
With cap-and-trade schemes gaining momentum as a viable environmental policy, this column outlines such a market for water licences in Australia. Since the early 90s the market has grown to accommodate trade of nearly 3 billion Australian dollars worth of licenses with a total value of water access entitlements at nearly $A40 billion.
Would an increase in Chinese domestic demand meaningfully reduce global imbalances and improve US and European employment prospects? This column says that Chinese policy has a relatively small impact on developed economies' macroeconomic circumstances. It estimates that major reduction in Chinese saving would improve US employment by less than one quarter of a percentage point.
How important are financial linkages in transmitting shocks across the financial system? This column examines evidence from India and finds that if a bank has a high level of exposure to another failing bank, the probability that there will be a run on the bank increases by 34 percentage points. This effect is even stronger when the financial system is weak.
Global imbalances have been central to the recent debate of China’s exchange-rate policy and its effect on US jobs. This column argues that global imbalances are not going away. The policy solution is clear. Coordination is needed among emerging economies on managing capital flows and exchange rates. Swift and substantially policy from China can help bring this about.
What accounts for life satisfaction differences across countries? This column presents new findings from the Gallup World Poll of more than 140,000 respondents worldwide. It suggests the happiest nations are those with strong social support from family and friends, freedom in making life choices, and low levels of corruption.
Should Turkey join the EU? This column argues for Turkish membership in order to wed the economic interests of the country with the rest of Europe and reduce the chance of future conflict. To start the process of EU membership, Turkey should be invited to enter the European Economic Area.
Many in the US are pushing China to revalue the renminbi. Will that create US jobs? Traditional Keynesian analysis associates higher exports and lower imports with more jobs, but today’s world is more complex. Chinese parts and components feed into US firms’ global competitiveness. This column says a dearer renembi would boost the competitiveness of US exports to China but reduce US competitiveness everywhere else. A revaluation may be the right policy for other reasons, but its impact on US jobs is far from clear.
Would appreciation of the renminbi actually destroy US jobs? This column discusses recent estimates that find that making intermediate inputs from China more expensive would hurt US global competitiveness. It argues that the direct effect of an improvement in the US trade balance would create far more jobs than might be lost to more expensive intermediate inputs.
Michael Bordo of Rutgers University compares US banking panics in the early 1930s with panics in the shadow banking system and the repo market in 2007 and in investment banks and the universal banking system after Lehman failed. He argues that the bailouts of ‘too big to fail’ banks may lead to future crises, and discusses possible remedies. The interview with Romesh Vaitilingam was recorded at a conference on ‘Lessons from the Great Depression for the Making of Economic Policy’ in London in April 2010.
Offshoring is one of the most controversial outcomes of globalisation. This column asks whether economists need a new analytic framework to understand it. New research argues that all you need is good old-fashioned trade theory to keep your thinking straight.
The fiscal crises faced by countries in southern Europe have led many commentators to group them together in their analysis. This column argues that the causes of these overvalued currencies and twin deficits are different. For Greece and Portugal the problem is insolvency; for Ireland and Spain, illiquidity. Italy has a higher savings rate and its foreign imbalances are much smaller.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s low level of financial development meant that African banks were not directly involved in the credit crunch. But this column warns against rejoicing. If the cost of such low development is that African exporters are very dependent on external trade finance, then the real cost of the global crisis on Africa may actually be higher.
Should Germany keep running a trade surplus? This column argues that any decision should be based on Germany’s interests alone. But new data suggests that its investments in southern Europe may be at risk of being wasted because the euro has removed the need for these countries to pay risk premiums. Germany might therefore consider cutting its surplus and boosting domestic consumption.
Volcano-linked flight restrictions have brought Europe’s business travel to a halt; does it matter? This column describes recent research that demonstrates that short-term cross-border travel is critical to technology transfer and innovation – crucial factors behind economic growth.
Public guarantees in the wake of the global crisis have been wide-spread. This column presents recent research on the effects of a 2001 law to remove government guarantees for German banks. It finds that such guarantees were associated with significant moral hazards and removing them reduced the risk taking of banks, their average loan size and their overall lending volumes.
A shortage of real-time data hinders evaluations of the impact of the global crisis on developing countries. This column uses a “microsimulation” approach to assess the poverty and distributional effects in Bangladesh, Mexico, and the Philippines. It finds that poverty will increase by well over a million, and that the crisis has been hardest for middle-income households.
Is the international-lender-of-last-resort IMF agenda passé? This column argues that the IMF could act as a “central bank swap clearing house” – an independent entity that manages existing and enhanced central bank swap agreements in one liquidity network for eligible countries and stands ready to step in with traditional programmes if liquidity fails.
The global crisis is frequently compared to the Great Depression and the interwar debt crises. This column argues that, contrary to prevailing opinion, the interwar debt crisis had little to do with bankers’ conflicts of interest – intermediaries were in fact careful in selecting and placing sovereign bonds. Then, as now, public opinion may not be the best guide to policy.
As the debate over whether China should reduce its current-account surplus continues, this column examines 28 such surplus reversals in advanced and emerging market economies over the past 50 years. Surplus reversals were not associated with lower growth in output or employment. Moreover, there are better balances between external and domestic demand and between growth in the tradables and non-tradables sectors.
The Spanish-language site “Nada Es Gratis” (“There’s No Free Lunch”) joins the Vox Consortium today. The site has been up and running since June 2009 and has already established a broad and active community of readers and contributors.
What good can come from the global crisis? This column argues that a major cause of the crisis was the lack of exchange trading for derivatives, which prevented market prices from signalling their inherent risk – more "missing market" than "market failure". The use of exchange trading for Greek sovereign debt, for example, marks a new and improved era in modern finance.
The delayed announcement of a US decision over China’s exchange-rate policy has stoked the fire of debate over trade relations. This column argues that the efforts of China’s main trade partners – the EU as well as the US – would be better spent on ensuring a steady rebalancing of China’s economy towards greater private consumption and imports rather than simply currency revaluation.
Many US analysts argue that China’s currency is undervalued and that its policy significantly impedes global macroeconomic rebalancing. This column outlines the possible policy responses available to the US. While multilateral policies are slower, they are less likely than unilateral policies to trigger a negative political response. But first the US needs to establish a principled basis for action.
Does the “global imbalance” between the importers, such as the US, and exporters, such as China, actually make people worse off? This column argues that both countries may be using policies that, in effect, subsidise the export of the goods in which they have comparative inter-temporal disadvantage. If this is the case, the resulting trade reduces global welfare
Does the US have a legal case for action against China’s exchange-rate policy? This column argues China’s currency regime qualifies as a subsidy in the legal sense and that the US has a legitimate case to respond within both the US and WTO legal frameworks. The high-profile difficulties are no reason to shy away from taking legal action.
If China’s currency does appreciate, what impact will it have? This column argues that while Chinese exports will fall, so will Chinese imports, because China imports components from other East Asian countries that are then processed before being exported to western markets. A 10% rise in the renminbi would reduce imports of components by 6%.
The approaching US decision over China’s exchange-rate policy is as much about politics as economics. This column argues that the coming months will define broader Sino-US relations. The good news is that Beijing stepped back this month, avoiding an outright confrontation. The bad news is that this is only round one.
Should the US take action over China’s exchange-rate policy? This column argues “yes”. But while China would be momentarily hurt by the imposition of tariffs, US companies, workers, and consumers would suffer in the long run. The US should instead follow Fred Bergsten’s three-stage plan of engaging the IMF and WTO. The column also suggests that a long-run solution should be worked out within the G20.
Much of the debate over China’s exchange-rate policy has focused on the effect on the US and other western economies. This column provides a comprehensive summary of China’s exchange-rate policy over the last five years and argues that it would also be in China’s interest to let its currency appreciate – and now is as good a time as any.
As the debate over China’s exchange rate intensifies, several commentators have been left despairing over the wide disparity in estimates of the extent of China’s currency undervaluation. This column argues that a new purchasing-power-parity approach provides a more consistent estimate of renminbi undervaluation at around 30%.
Will an appreciation of the Chinese currency create more US jobs? This column argues quite the opposite. A 10% appreciation would lead to a rise in the US price level by approximately 0.16%, meaning that in total the US would experience a mix of falling real wages and falling employment.
Philip Cook of Duke University talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about cost-effective ways of reducing crime. They discuss his own research on private contributions to public order, as well as the potential impact on crime of higher taxes on alcohol, 'coerced abstinence' for convicted criminals, and social policies that may deter people from becoming criminals. The interview was recorded at the Royal Economic Society's annual conference at the University of Surrey in March 2010.
Many economists cite the undervalued renminbi as a major cause of global imbalances and a contributing factor to the global crisis. This column says the undervaluation results mainly from the Balassa-Samuelson effect and that a rebalancing of the world economy will need reforms in China’s social, pension and family policies rather than currency appreciation.
The global crisis has intensified calls for Western governments to pressure China to liberalise its economy – particular its exchange-rate policy. This column argues that the power of China’s policymakers should not be overestimated – just like elsewhere, they must bow to public sentiment. An outside call for the country to change its policies might actually make the change more difficult.
If the US government does brand China as a “currency manipulator”, should the EU follow suit? This column argues that EU officials are likely to be low key on the issue. There are far too many imbalances within the EU, notably Germany’s trade deficit, so that any complaints about China are doomed to degenerate into intra-EU discord.
How might the US take action through the WTO over China’s alleged currency manipulation? This column analyses three potential legal issues: legality of exchange-rate policy under the GATT rules, legality under the subsidy rules, and the feasibility of non-violation complaints. It concludes that any WTO resolution will be difficult to achieve because the organisation is not designed to deal with alleged exchange-rate manipulation.
C Fred Bergsten is one of several commentators calling for action against China’s exchange-rate policy. In this column, he outlines a three-part multilateral action plan to force China to allow the renminbi to appreciate: label China a “currency manipulator”, seek a special IMF consultation, and request a WTO dispute settlement panel.
The debate over the cause of China’s current-account surplus continues to develop. This column suggests a number of factors are probably to blame and one less-considered cause is input-cost distortion caused by China’s asymmetric economic liberalisation. Any debate on policy response must therefore move beyond simply discussing currency appreciation.
As the speculation over US action on China’s alleged currency manipulation intensifies, this column outlines the bills, proposals and comments that make up the political background to this debate.
What are the likely economic effects of climate change? This column examines the impact of changes in climate on detailed export data. If a poor country is one degree Celsius warmer in a given year, its exports are lower, by as much as 5.7%. While there is no effect on rich countries’ exports, their consumers will still suffer from reduced imports at higher prices.
The global crisis has called into question the efficacy of regulation in all affected markets – none more so than the EU. This column argues that the time when each European country can have a different resolution framework has come to an end and the EU’s resolution framework is still in need of major reform.
Today Vox posts a new eBook “The US-Sino currency dispute: New insights from economics, politics, and law” that gathers 28 short essays written by 33 authors from around the world. The eBook provides the best available economic, legal, political, and geopolitical thinking on the confrontation, as well as on the causes and likely consequences of the dispute.
What legal basis is there for retaliating against China’s exchange-rate policy? This column says that IMF rules are likely inadequate to rule against China, while its policy does not constitute a WTO-punishable export subsidy. It argues that exchange-rate conflicts should be handled by a proposed IMF dispute settlement mechanism, not the WTO.
One objection to the calls for China to let its currency appreciate argues that the yen's appreciation during the 1980s was a cause of Japan’s “lost decade”. This column instead blames policymakers for not dealing with Japan’s property bubble early enough. China should learn from these mistakes with its own property bubble and let the renminbi appreciate.
The global crisis threatens the welfare of over 160 million people living around the poverty line in Europe and Central Asia. This column reports the findings of a recent World Bank analysis in the region. It estimates that the crisis will result in close to 35 million more people living around the poverty line.
Are cap-and-trade schemes working? This column presents a summary of eight existing schemes arguing that half meet the independence property whereby the initial allocation of property rights does not affect the environmental or social outcome and the scheme is cost-effective. This success is a contrast with other policy proposals where political bargaining reduces the effectiveness and drives up cost.
The fiscal crises in some EU countries have put considerable strain on the region. This column argues that the solution requires a credible demonstration of political will from its political leaders. It suggests a voluntary commitment to support struggling governments with financial means provided at a penalty rate and against a clearly defined spending reduction programme.
The causes and consequences of the current global crisis have been compared with the Great Depression as well as crises in emerging markets. This column argues that the main difference between emerging market crises and the global crisis is that the former relied on an export recovery while the recent recovery has been fuelled by far less sustainable government expenditure.
The US obsession with the Chinese exchange rate is a classic example of blaming foreigners for domestic woes. This column argues that we’ve been here before. In the 1980s, the US government – reacting to political pressure from ailing US manufacturers – engineered a massive yen appreciation. That did as little to save US manufacturing jobs then as a rise in the yuan would do today.
Why do financial market anomalies arise and persist? This column summarises a new thread in financial economics – the "limits of arbitrage" literature – explaining how financial institutions sometimes lack the capital needed to arbitrage away anomolies. This new approach has far-reaching implications for our understanding of how financial markets work and how they should be regulated.
What role can free trade agreements play in an increasingly globalised world? This column argues that both economics and politics matter. Because they involve trade gains, trade agreements reduce the risk of dispute by increasing the opportunity cost of war. But with globalisation, this cost decreases, making such agreements more, not less, important to keep the peace.
Carmen Reinhart of the University of Maryland talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about the sequencing of the cycle of debt build-ups – from private debt surges to banking crises to sovereign debt crises – and the four ‘deadly D’s’ that once again threaten many governments as a consequence of the current crisis – deficits, debt, downgrade and default. The interview was recorded at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference at the University of Surrey in March 2010.
How can poor countries stop playing catch up? The question continues to puzzle economists. This column argues that the innovative and productive activities of domestic firms in emerging markets are inhibited by financial frictions. Financial reforms will be most effective if they target the vulnerable small and young domestic firms and those in the service sector.
What should an effective macro-prudential policy framework look like? This column argues that financial stability and macroeconomic stability should be dealt with differently. One requires prompt corrective action; the other requires more gradual policy intervention. Systemic levies offer a policy that can tighten financial discipline without the need for a large increase in interest rates across the whole economy.
The causes and implications of state fragility – also known as state failure – are not yet well understood. This column explores the determinants of state fragility in sub-Saharan Africa and finds that institutions – as measured by civil liberties and the number of revolutions – are the main drivers. It says institutions trump economic, geographic, and historical factors.
Are long-run stock market returns predictable? This column shows that a forecasting model that uses a demographic variable – the ratio of middle-aged to young adults – as well as the dividend price ratio, performs “very well” in forecasting long-horizon stock market returns.
Recent allegations that scientists at the Climate Research Unit have hidden and manipulated data has caused a media storm. This column argues that the practices alleged in “climategate” may be more common in academia than we think.
The global crisis has been associated with an unprecedented rise of swap agreements between central banks of larger economies and their counterparts in smaller economies. This column explores whether such swap lines can reduce the need for reserve accumulation. The evidence suggests that there is only a limited scope for swaps to substitute for foreign-exchange reserves.
How does consumption respond to a change in income – whether expected or unexpected, temporary or permanent? This column reviews evidence from diverse sources and suggests that if financial market arrangements and liquidity constraints are binding, even changes in income that are predictable can have a significant effect on consumption. This supports the idea that tax changes can have a considerable impact on expenditure.
Andrew Clark of the Paris School of Economics talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his research on the relationship between income and health, which examines changes in the health and health behaviours (smoking and drinking) of British people who win prizes in the national lottery. The interview was recorded at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference at the University of Surrey in March 2010.
Small and medium enterprises are engines of economic growth. But what kind of market structure is more conducive to financing these enterprises? This column argues that different types of bank, applying different types of lending technology and organisational structures can all play a vital role in financing them.