Tag Archives: devaluation

McKinnon’s Claim that RMB-$ Appreciation Would Not Reduce Trade Imbalances

The International Economy magazine (Winter 2013) asks 16 authorities, “Can Changes in Exchange Rate Valuations Affect Trade Imbalances?”   It is referring to the claim in a recent book by Stanford economist Ron McKinnon that pressure on China to let the renminbi appreciate against the dollar is fundamentally misconceived because such a movement in the exchange rate would not reduce China’s trade surplus nor American’s trade deficit.  This is part of an old debate that pre-dates the rise of the China trade problem.  Ron has long claimed that exchange rates don’t determine trade balances because they are “instead” determined by national saving versus investment.   I thought Paul Krugman demolished the argument pretty effectively 25 years ago, with a textbook graph of internal balance versus external balance.   But evidently many still fall for the argument (including some of the experts in the TIE symposium).   So I try again:

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The Phylloxera Analogy: Lessons from Emerging Markets

      In 2008, the global financial system was grievously infected by so-called toxic assets originating in the United States.  As a result of the crisis, many have asked what fundamental rethinking will be necessary to save macroeconomic theory.  Some answers may lie with models that have in the past been applied to fit the realities of emerging markets — models that are at home with
the financial market imperfections that have now unexpectedly turned up in industrialized countries.  The imperfections include default risk, asymmetric information, incentive incompatibility, procyclicality of capital flows, procyclicality of fiscal policy, imperfect property rights, and other flawed institutions.   To be sure, many of these theories had been first constructed in the context of industrialized economies, but they had not become mainstream there.   Only in the context of less advanced economies were the imperfections undeniable.  There the models thrived.     

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