Those Current Account Imbalances: A Sceptical View

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 13/06

Date: August 2006


W. Max Corden


The international current account imbalance, where the United States has a vast deficit and several countries, notably Japan, Chin a, Germany and the oil exporters have corresponding surpluses, is usually seen as a problem. The argument here is that current account imbalances simply indicate intertemporal trade – the exchange of goods and services for claims. There are likely to be gains from trade of that kind as from ordinary trade. What then are th e problems? This paper considers several scenarios, notably one where net savings of the surplus countries decline so that the world real interest rate rises, and another where the US fiscal deficit is reduced, so that the world real interest rate falls and there could be a world wide aggregate demand problem, essentially caused by the hi gh net savings of the surplus countries.

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