The Importance of Trade and Capital Imbalances in the European Debt Crisis
AbstractThe current debate on the European crisis has highlighted the role of fiscal imbalances in explaining the turmoil that has dominated Europe in the past few years. This paper adopts a different point of view by suggesting that intra-European payments imbalances are crucial for the survival of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Indeed, payment imbalances between the North and South have contributed to the accumulation of large stock of foreign debt, while flows of foreign capital ceased to finance productive investments that might have contributed to debt repayments--being used instead to finance consumption and real estate. The dynamic interplay between current account imbalances and the accumulation of foreign debt reveals that, once the system is driven into disequilibrium by a real exchange rate misalignment, the longer a payments imbalance persists and the harder the eventual adjustment will be. Capital reversals, by shifting portfolio balances, then lead the system toward instability, sovereign default, and the collapse of the exchange rate regime. Replacing private with public creditors can temporarily help us to stay away from the point where the system breaks down. But this is only a temporary expedient because the underlying imbalances will need continuing and increasing financing until equilibrium is restored by other means. One permanent solution is the European Central Bank’s (ECB) official monetary transactions program, if the potential expansions to the central bank’s balance sheet can be tolerated.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Peterson Institute for International Economics in its series Working Paper Series with number WP13-1.
Date of creation: Jan 2013
Date of revision:
external debt; trade space; real exchange rate adjustments; official financing; OMT;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- F32 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Current Account Adjustment; Short-term Capital Movements
- F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics
- G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing
- H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2013-02-03 (All new papers)
- NEP-EEC-2013-02-03 (European Economics)
- NEP-OPM-2013-02-03 (Open Economy Macroeconomic)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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