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The Importance of Trade and Capital Imbalances in the European Debt Crisis

Author

Listed:
  • Andrew Hughes Hallett

    () (George Mason University)

  • Juan Carlos Martinez Oliva

    () (Peterson Institute for International Economics)

Abstract

The 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Hughes Hallett & Juan Carlos Martinez Oliva, 2013. "The Importance of Trade and Capital Imbalances in the European Debt Crisis," Working Paper Series WP13-1, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:iie:wpaper:wp13-1
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Atish R. Ghosh & Jun I. Kim & Enrique G. Mendoza & Jonathan D. Ostry & Mahvash S. Qureshi, 2013. "Fiscal Fatigue, Fiscal Space and Debt Sustainability in Advanced Economies," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 0, pages 4-30, February.
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    5. Hughes Hallett, Andrew & Di Bartolomeo, Giovanni & Acocella, Nicola, 2012. "A general theory of controllability and expectations anchoring for small-open economies," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 397-411.
    6. Pietro Alessandrini & Michele Fratianni & Andrew Hughes Hallett & Andrea Presbitero, 2014. "External Imbalances and Fiscal Fragility in the Euro Area," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 25(1), pages 3-34, February.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Walter Paternesi Meloni, 2017. "Austerity & Competitiveness in the Eurozone: a misleading linkage," Departmental Working Papers of Economics - University 'Roma Tre' 0223, Department of Economics - University Roma Tre.
    2. repec:wsi:ceprxx:v:03:y:2014:i:02:n:s1793969014500095 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Siddique, Abu & Selvanathan, E.A. & Selvanathan, Saroja, 2016. "The impact of external debt on growth: Evidence from highly indebted poor countries," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 38(5), pages 874-894.
    4. repec:eee:jpolmo:v:39:y:2017:i:2:p:232-246 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    external debt; trade space; real exchange rate adjustments; official financing; OMT;

    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; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt

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