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Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 22 No. 3 (Summer 2008)

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Resolving the Global Imbalance: The Dollar and the U.S. Saving Rate

Article Citation

Feldstein, Martin. 2008. "Resolving the Global Imbalance: The Dollar and the U.S. Saving Rate." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 22(3): 113-25.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.22.3.113

Abstract

The massive deficit in the U.S. trade and current accounts is one of the most striking features of the current global economy and, to some observers, one of the most worrying. Although the current account deficit finally began to shrink in 2007, it remained at more than 5 percent of GDP -- more than $700 billion. While some observers claim that the U.S. economy can continue to have trade deficits of this magnitude for years -- some would say for decades -- into the future, I believe that such enormous deficits cannot continue and will decline significantly in the coming years. This paper discusses the reasons for that decline and the changes that are needed in the U.S. saving rate and in the value of the dollar to bring it about. Reducing the U.S. current account deficit does not require action by the U.S. government or by the governments of America's trading partners. Market forces alone will cause the U.S. trade deficit to decline further. In practice, however, changes in government policies at home and abroad may lead to faster reductions in the U.S. trade deficit. More important, the response of the U.S. and foreign governments and central banks will determine the way in which the global economy as a whole adjusts to the decline in the U.S. trade deficit. Reductions in the U.S. current account deficit will of course imply lower aggregate trade surpluses in the rest of the world. Taken by itself, a reduction in any country's trade surplus will reduce aggregate demand and therefore employment in that country. I will therefore look at what other countries -- China, Japan, and European countries -- can do to avoid the adverse consequences of the inevitable decline of the U.S. trade deficit.

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Authors

Feldstein, Martin (Harvard U)

JEL Classifications

E21: Macroeconomics: Consumption; Saving; Wealth
F14: Country and Industry Studies of Trade
F32: Current Account Adjustment; Short-term Capital Movements

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