Policymakers everywhere are concerned about currency wars. Are quantitative easing and managed exchange rates bad for the global economy? This column looks at the hard empirical evidence, arguing that, in fact, Japan is behaving rather responsibly and that other strong economies have themselves benefited from undervalued currencies. That said, it is true that politicians’ short time horizons often lead to stealthy policy and large swings in exchange rates. Economists should therefore aim to promote longer-run cosmopolitan interests rather than shorter-run nationalistic agendas where possible.
Why is it that large movements in exchange rates have small effects on international prices? What does this mean for a crisis-stricken Eurozone? Using firm-level data, this column presents new research that investigates this exchange rate ‘disconnect’. Evidence suggests that the prices of the largest firms – with their disproportionately large share of trade – are insulated from exchange rate movements. The international competitiveness effects of a euro devaluation are therefore likely to be modest, given major exporters’ reliance on global supply chains.
The increasing volatility of exchange rates after the fall of the Bretton Woods agreements has been a constant source of concern for both policymakers and academics. Does exchange-rate risk dangerously increase transaction costs and reduce gains to international trade? This column uses recent research to argue that there is indeed a negative impact of exchange-rate volatility on firms’ exporting behaviour, magnified for financially vulnerable firms and dampened by financial development. Thus, emerging countries should be careful when relaxing their exchange-rate regime.
Increasingly, services form a larger and larger share a country’s exports. Do exchange rates matter as much for services and they do for goods exports? This column argues that they do. Distinguishing between traditional services (such as trade and transport, tourism, financial services and insurance) and modern services (such as communications, computers, information services) suggests that the effect of the real exchange rate is especially large for exports of modern services.
China is perennially accused of currency manipulation. Yet, this column argues that a weak currency value doesn’t necessarily reflect currency manipulation. China is a fast growing economy with strong financial frictions and a high saving rate, and such countries naturally have weak currencies. Instead of focussing on accusations of currency manipulation, it might be more helpful for economists to encourage policies that foster Chinese consumption, gradually leading the renminbi to an appreciating path.
Other Recent Articles:
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Reichlin, Baldwin, 14 April 2013
CEPR Policy Research
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