Bretton Woods III

SINGAPORE – Many analysts and observers believe that the global imbalances that characterized the world economy in the years before the 2008 crisis have substantially dissipated. But, while it is true that China’s current-account surpluses and America’s deficits have somewhat moderated since then, have the imbalances really been corrected? More important, can the post-crisis global economy enjoy both growth and balance?

To answer these questions, it is important to understand the imbalances’ underlying dynamics. An economy’s current account is the difference between its investment rate and its savings rate. In 2007, the United States had a savings rate of 14.6% of GDP, but an investment rate of 19.6%, generating a current-account deficit. By contrast, China had a fixed investment rate of 41.7% of GDP and a savings rate of 51.9%, reflected in a large surplus.