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Changes in International Economic Order after Global Financial Crisis

Park, Bokyeong and Eichengreen, Barry, Changes in the International Economic Order after the Global Financial Crisis (December 30, 2011). KIEP Policy Analyses 11-01. Available at SSRN: “The global credit crisis of 2008-09 was the most serious shock to the world economy in 80 years. It was for the world what the Asian crisis of 1997-98 had been for emerging markets: a profoundly alarming wake-up call. By laying bare the fragility of global markets, it raised troubling questions about the operation of the 21st-century world economy. It cast doubt on the efficacy of light-touch financial regulation and, more generally, on the prevailing commitment to economic and financial liberalization. It challenged the managerial capacity of institutions of global governance. It augured a changing of the guard, pointing to the possibility that the economies that had been leaders in the global growth stakes in the past would no longer be leaders in the future.  Given that the 2008-09 crisis was first and foremost a financial crisis, it is appropriate that analysis should start with an assessment of the causes of recent financial problems and the successes and failures of post-crisis financial reform. The author argues that the traditional separation of macroeconomic and financial policies – the “Tinbergen principle” of assigning monetary policy to the maintenance of price stability and regulatory policy to financial stability – is part of what caused the crisis, and that the development of a synthesis, which flies under the flag of “macro-prudential” or “macro-financial” policy, points the way to a solution. Another striking aspect of the crisis was the abrupt collapse of international trade, which declined even more precipitously than the production of goods and services. Why the impact on trade was so dramatic continues to be debated. Then there was the protectionist response, described in Chapter 3. A few governments responded to the crisis and recession with overtly protectionist policies, but more important was “murky protectionism” defined to include not simply import tariffs, quotas and export taxes but also subsidies, bailouts, preferential public procurement practices. The global crisis also deepened disenchantment with the structure and operation of the international monetary system. It was already a commonplace that a system in which the U.S. dollar enjoyed the “exorbitant privilege” of providing the vast majority of global foreign exchange reserves was dangerously prone to imbalances. Chapter 4 sketches likely future trajectories for the international monetary arrangements. The author is dismissive of far-reaching reforms ranging from a regime based on Special Drawing Rights on the one hand to restoration of a gold-based system on the other. But he is equally skeptical about the viability of a dollar-centric monetary system like that of the recent past. The remaining option being a system organized around several national currencies – not just the dollar but also the euro and the Chinese renminbi, the question then becomes how to ease the transition to such a system and to smooth its operation once it arrives.  Among the notable long-term consequences of the crisis has been the emergence of the Group of Twenty (G20) as the de facto steering committee for the world economy, displacing earlier advanced-country-centered groupings, notably the Group of Seven/Eight (G7/8). But, institutionally, the G20 remains a work in progress. As explained in Chapter 5, it has no permanent staff or written constitution. It has no global mandate; why it includes the countries it does reflects the particular historical process out of which it emerged.”

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