On the Way of EMU Enlargement towards CEECs: What is the Appropriate Exchange Rate Regime?
Focusing on a very rich panel of exchange rate regimes in transition countries, this Paper asks the question of the appropriate exchange rate regime for countries aiming at joining the EU, that is, subsequently, the EMU. Four arguments plead in favour of the adoption of a fixed exchange rate regime: (i) countries sharing the same currency inside a Currency Union (CU hereafter) trade well above the average, because of lower transaction costs; (ii) emerging countries are not able to manage counter-cyclical policies; (iii) in a world of increasing financial instability, only corner solutions are feasible; (iv) last, but not least, fixing CEECs currencies could be a necessary step in a global strategy of entering the EU, that is, subsequently, the EMU. This Paper examines the first of these four arguments, that is, the fostering of trade, and provides evidence that the extra trade implied by fixing the currency is in fact close to nil, as in Padko and Wall . One corollary is that the benefit from membership into the EMU, if any, cannot be explained by the transaction cost argument only. Besides fixed effects, the explanation of the level of trade integration is to be found in the external constraint. The latter is affected by trade (positively if intra-industry trade dominates), and by monetary and fiscal policy. Increasing government spending and manipulating the exchange rate or moving towards more floating regimes might make business cycles more symmetric, relax the external constraint, and finally favour further trade integration. Given that the co-variation of East-West business cycles is already dominated by intra- industry trade, one can conclude that joining the EU, that is, two years later, the EMU, is realistic and compatible with any exchange rate regime. Empirical evidence from Transition Countries shows that the exchange rate regime is not correlated with any fundamentals – better macro-economic performance, higher growth, or deeper trade integration – and should not allow to discriminate between candidate countries for entering the EU (as for other nominal criteria).
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