Learning from Lehman

HONG KONG – When the US investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed five years ago, emerging-market economies did not hold many of the toxic financial assets – mainly American subprime mortgages – that fueled the subsequent global financial crisis. But they were deeply affected by the drop in world trade, which recorded a peak-to-trough decline of at least 15%, with trade finance also contracting sharply, owing to a shortage of dollar liquidity. Have policymakers responded appropriately since then?

Soon after the crisis erupted, the G-20 countries embraced massive stimulus packages, unconventional monetary policies in the advanced economies, and major institutional efforts, such as the Dodd-Frank financial-reform legislation in the United States and the Basel III initiative to strengthen banking standards. China’s ¥4 trillion stimulus package, unveiled in November 2008, restored confidence in global commodity markets. Led by strong Chinese growth, emerging markets stabilized.