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Global imbalances and the lessons of Bretton Woods

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  • Barry Eichengreen

Abstract

In Global Imbalances and the Lessons of Bretton Woods, Barry Eichengreen takes issue with the argument that today's international financial system is largely analogous to the Bretton Woods System of the period 1958 to 1973. Then, as now, it has been argued, the United States ran balance of payment deficits, provided international reserves to other countries, and acted as export market of last resort for the rest of the world. Then, as now, the story continues, other countries were reluctant to revalue their currencies for fear of seeing their export-led growth slow and suffering capital losses on their foreign reserves. Eichengreen argues in response that the power of historical analogy lies not just in finding parallels but in highlighting differences, and he finds important differences in the structure of the world economy today. Such differences, he concludes, mean that the current constellation of exchange rates and payments imbalances is unlikely to last as long as the original Bretton Woods System. Two of the most salient differences are the twin deficits and low savings rate of the United States, which do not augur well for the sustainability of the country's international position. Such differences, he concludes, mean that the current constellation of exchange rates and payments imbalances is unlikely to last as long as the original Bretton Woods System. After identifying these differences, Eichengreen looks in detail at the Gold Pool, the mechanism through which European central banks sought to support the dollar in the 1960s. He shows that the Pool was fragile and short lived, which does not bode well for collective efforts on the part of Asian central banks to restrain reserve diversification and support the dollar today. He studies Japan's exit from its dollar peg in 1971, drawing lessons for China's transition to greater exchange rate flexibility. And he considers the history of reserve currency competition, asking if it has lessons for whether the doll

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Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in its journal Proceedings.

Volume (Year): (2005)
Issue (Month): Feb ()
Pages:

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfpr:y:2005:i:feb:x:7

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Keywords: Bretton Woods Agreements Act ; Economic development - Pacific Basin;

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  1. Michael P. Dooley & David Folkerts-Landau & Peter Garber, 2003. "An Essay on the Revived Bretton Woods System," NBER Working Papers 9971, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Michael D. Bordo & Barry Eichengreen, 1997. "Implications of the Great Depression for the Development of the International Monetary System," NBER Working Papers 5883, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Michael P. Dooley & David Folkerts-Landau & Peter Garber, 2004. "The revived Bretton Woods system," International Journal of Finance & Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(4), pages 307-313.
  4. Eichengreen, Barry, 2004. "Chinese Currency Controversies," CEPR Discussion Papers 4375, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Allan H. Meltzer, 1991. "U.S. policy in the Bretton Woods era," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 54-83.
  6. Peter M. Garber, 1993. "The Collapse of the Bretton Woods Fixed Exchange Rate System," NBER Chapters, in: A Retrospective on the Bretton Woods System: Lessons for International Monetary Reform, pages 461-494 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Michael D. Bordo & Barry Eichengreen, 1993. "A Retrospective on the Bretton Woods System: Lessons for International Monetary Reform," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bord93-1.
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