Global Imbalances and Domestic Inequality

WASHINGTON, DC – Despite years of official talk about addressing global current-account imbalances, they remained one of the world’s main economic concerns in 2011. Global imbalances were, to be sure, smaller overall than before the crisis, but they did not disappear. Now some are increasing again, alongside inequality in many countries. That link is no accident.

One often hears calls for global rebalancing whereby emerging-market countries with payments surpluses – China is the most-often mentioned – would stimulate internal demand, so that advanced countries (the largest being the United States) could reduce their deficits and public debts with less threat to their economies’ recovery. The net foreign demand created by a reduction in balance-of-payments surpluses abroad would partly offset the weakening of public demand in the US and other high-debt countries as they tightened fiscal policy.