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The Unsustainable US Current Account Position Revisited

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  • Obstfeld, Maurice
  • Rogoff, Kenneth S

Abstract

Keywords: US current account deficit, external imbalance, net foreign assets, real exchange rate, sustainability JEL Codes: F21, F32, F36, F41 ABSTRACT:We show that the when one takes into account the global equilibrium ramifications of an unwinding of the US current account deficit, currently running at more than 6% of GDP, the potential collapse of the dollar becomes considerably larger than our previous estimates (Obstfeld and Rogoff 2000a)—as much as 30% or even higher. It is true that global capital market deepening appears to have accelerated over the past decade (a fact documented by Lane and Milesi-Ferreti (2003, 2004) and recently emphasized by outgoing US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan), and that this deepening may have helped allowed the United States to a recordbreaking string of deficits. Unfortunately, however, global capital market deepening turns out to be of only modest help in mitigating the dollar decline that will almost inevitably occur in the wake of global current account adjustment. As the analysis of our earlier papers (2000a,b) showed, and the model of this paper reinforces, adjustments to large current account shifts depend mainly on the flexibility and global integration of goods and factor markets. Whereas the dollar’s decline may be benign as in the 1980s, we argue that the current conjuncture more closely parallels the early 1970s, when the Bretton Woods system collapsed. Finally, we use our model to dispel some common misconceptions about what kinds of shifts are needed to help close the US current account imbalance. For example, faster growth abroad helps only if it is relatively concentrated in nontradable goods; faster productivity growth in foreign tradable goods will actually exacerbate the US adjustment problem.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley in its series Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series with number qt4f63x50j.

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Date of creation: 30 Nov 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:ciders:qt4f63x50j

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Keywords: US current account deficit; external imbalance; net foreign assets; real exchange rate; sustainability;

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  1. Campa, Jose M. & Goldberg, Linda S., 2002. "Exchange rate pass-through into import prices: A macro or micro phenomenon?," IESE Research Papers D/475, IESE Business School.
  2. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth Rogoff, 2001. "Perspectives on OECD Economic Integration: Implications for US Current Account Adjustment," International Trade 0012004, EconWPA.
  3. Tille, Cédric, 2008. "Financial integration and the wealth effect of exchange rate fluctuations," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 283-294, July.
  4. Joseph E. Gagnon, 2003. "Productive capacity, product varieties, and the elasticities approach to the trade balance," International Finance Discussion Papers 781, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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  6. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Helene Rey, 2005. "International Financial Adjustment," NBER Working Papers 11155, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Sebastian Edwards, 2004. "Thirty Years of Current Account Imbalances, Current Account Reversals and Sudden Stops," NBER Working Papers 10276, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Lane, Philip R. & Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria, 2004. "Financial Globalization and Exchange Rates," CEPR Discussion Papers 4745, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Lane, Philip R. & Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria, 2003. "International Financial Integration," CEPR Discussion Papers 3769, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Alejandro Izquierdo, 2002. "Sudden Stops, the Real Exchange Rate and Fiscal Sustainability in Argentina," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 25(7), pages 903-923, 07.
  11. Obstfeld,Maurice & Taylor,Alan M., 2005. "Global Capital Markets," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521671798, December.
  12. Warnock, Francis E., 2003. "Exchange rate dynamics and the welfare effects of monetary policy in a two-country model with home-product bias," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 343-363, June.
  13. Maurice Obstfeld and Kenneth Rogoff., 2000. "The Six Major Puzzles in International Macroeconomics: Is There a Common Cause?," Center for International and Development Economics Research (CIDER) Working Papers C00-112, University of California at Berkeley.
  14. Michael Dooley & David Folkerts-Landau & Peter Garber, 2005. "An essay on the revived Bretton Woods system," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Feb.
  15. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 1996. "Foundations of International Macroeconomics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262150476, January.
  16. Sebastian Edwards, 2005. "Is the U.S. Current Account Deficit Sustainable? And If Not, How Costly is Adjustment Likely To Be?," NBER Working Papers 11541, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Kenneth Rogoff & William Brainard & George Perry, . "Global Current Account Imbalances and Exchange Rate Adjustments," Working Paper 33687, Harvard University OpenScholar.
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  19. Philip R. Lane & Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti, 2004. "Financial globalization and exchange rates," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19926, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  20. 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.
  21. Sebastian Edwards, 2004. "Thirty Years of Current Account Imbalances, Current Account Reversals, and Sudden Stops," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 51(s1), pages 1-49, June.
  22. Robert J. Gordon, 2004. "Two Centuries of Economic Growth: Europe Chasing the American Frontier," NBER Working Papers 10662, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Alejandro Izquierdo & Ernesto Talvi & Guillermo A. Calvo, 2002. "Sudden Stops, the Real Exchange Rate and Fiscal Sustainability: Argentina's Lessons," Research Department Publications 4299, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
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