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Global Imbalances: Globalization, Demography, and Sustainability


  • Richard N. Cooper


The current account deficit of the United States has been large in recent years, both in absolute size and relative to GDP. In 2006, it reached $811 billion, 6.1 percent of GDP. It has become a dominant feature of the world economy; if you sum up the current account deficits of all nations that are running deficits in the world economy, the U.S. deficit accounts for about 70 percent of the total. This paper looks beyond the national income accounting relationships to offer a more complex view of the U.S. imbalance. I argue that the generally rising U.S. trade deficit over the last 10-15 years is a natural outcome of two important forces in the world economy -- globalization of financial markets and demographic change -- and therefore that the U.S. current account deficit is likely to remain large for at least a decade. In a globalized market, the United States has a comparative advantage in producing marketable securities and in exchanging low-risk debt for higher-risk equity. It is not surprising that savers around the world want to put a growing portion of their savings into the U.S. economy. I argue that serious efforts to reduce the U.S. deficit, even collaborative efforts with other countries, may well precipitate a financial crisis and an economic downturn every bit as severe as the one that many fear could result from a disorderly market adjustment to the trade deficit.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard N. Cooper, 2008. "Global Imbalances: Globalization, Demography, and Sustainability," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(3), pages 93-112, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:22:y:2008:i:3:p:93-112 Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.22.3.93

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pol Antràs & Ricardo J. Caballero, 2009. "Trade and Capital Flows: A Financial Frictions Perspective," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(4), pages 701-744, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Didier, Tatiana & Llovet, Ruth & Schmukler, Sergio L., 2017. "International financial integration of East Asia and Pacific," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 52-66.
    2. Andrea Fracasso & Stefano Schiavo, 2009. "Trade-imbalances networks and exchange rate adjustments: the paradox of a new Plaza. The XIVth Spring Meeting of Young Economists (SMYE-2009), Istanbul, April 2009," Post-Print hal-01053278, HAL.
    3. Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der Gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung (ed.), 2010. "Chancen für einen stabilen Aufschwung. Jahresgutachten 2010/11," Annual Economic Reports / Jahresgutachten, German Council of Economic Experts / Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung, volume 127, number 201011.
    4. Ignazio Angeloni & Agnès Bénassy-Quéré & Benjamin Carton & Christophe Destais & Zsolt Darvas & Jean Pisani-Ferry & André Sapir & Shahin Vallée, . "Global currencies for tomorrow: a European perspective," Blueprints, Bruegel, number 592, November.
    5. Gian M Milesi-Ferretti, 2008. "Fundamentals at Odds? The U.S. Current Account Deficit and The Dollar," IMF Working Papers 08/260, International Monetary Fund.
    6. Harashima, Taiji, 2015. "Why Has the U.S. Current Account Deficit Persisted? International Sustainable Heterogeneity under Floating Exchange Rates," MPRA Paper 67177, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Pomfret, Richard, 2010. "The financial sector and the future of capitalism," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 22-37, March.
    8. Mérette Marcel & Georges Patrick, 2010. "Demographic Changes and the Gains from Globalisation: An Analysis of Ageing, Capital Flows, and International Trade," Global Economy Journal, De Gruyter, vol. 10(3), pages 1-39, October.
    9. Bosworth, Barry & Flaaen, Aaron, 2009. "America's Financial Crisis: The End of an Era," ADBI Working Papers 142, Asian Development Bank Institute.
    10. Hoffmann, Mathias & Krause, Michael U. & Laubach, Thomas, 2013. "The expectations-driven US current account," Discussion Papers 10/2013, Deutsche Bundesbank.
    11. Graff Michael & Tang Kam Ki. & Zhang Jie, 2012. "Does Demographic Change Affect the Current Account? A Reconsideration," Global Economy Journal, De Gruyter, vol. 12(4), pages 1-26, December.
    12. Sharma Shalendra D., 2014. "The Global Economic Imbalances: The Dangers of Not Rebalancing," New Global Studies, De Gruyter, vol. 8(2), pages 1-24, July.
    13. Sauré, Philip, 2017. "Time-intensive R&D and unbalanced trade," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 229-244.
    14. Özlale, Ümit & Pekkurnaz, Didem, 2010. "Oil prices and current account: A structural analysis for the Turkish economy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(8), pages 4489-4496, August.
    15. Fratzscher, Marcel, 2009. "What explains global exchange rate movements during the financial crisis?," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 28(8), pages 1390-1407, December.
    16. Hongyi Chen & Lars Jonung & Olaf Unteroberdoerster, 2014. "Lessons for China from Financial Liberalization in Scandinavia," Asian Economic Papers, MIT Press, vol. 13(1), pages 1-44, Winter.
    17. Chevallier, Julien, 2012. "Global imbalances, cross-market linkages, and the financial crisis: A multivariate Markov-switching analysis," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 943-973.
    18. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/10028 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Krishnakumar S, 2015. "Global Imbalances and Bretton Woods II Postulate," Working Papers id:6567, eSocialSciences.
    20. Fracasso, Andrea & Schiavo, Stefano, 2009. "Global imbalances, exchange rates adjustment and the crisis: Implications from network analysis," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 601-619, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F02 - International Economics - - General - - - International Economic Order and Integration
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • F32 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Current Account Adjustment; Short-term Capital Movements


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