There are around 180 currencies in the world, but only a very small number of them play an outsized role in international trade, finance, and central bank foreign exchange reserves. In the modern era, the U.S. dollar has a dominant international presence, followed to a lesser extent by the euro and a handful of other currencies. Although the use of specific currencies is remarkably stable over time, with the status of dominant currencies remaining unchanged over decades, there have been decisive shifts in the international monetary system over long horizons. For example, the British pound only lost its dominant currency status in the 1930s, well after Britain stopped being the leading world economy. In a new study, we show that the currency that is used in international trade transactions is an active firm-level decision rather than something that is just fixed. This finding raises the question of what factors could augment or reduce the U.S. dollar’s dominance in world trade.
The economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has been uneven across countries and sectors. While U.S. imports have rebounded to surpass their level before the collapse in 2020, U.S. exports remain far below their pre-pandemic level. This asymmetry in part reflects the different sectoral compositions of imports and exports. U.S. imports are driven by goods trade, while exports rely more heavily on services trade. A key component of services exports is foreign travel to the United States, which has dried up due to the suspension of nonessential travel imposed in March 2020. However, U.S. exports may now be at a turning point given the reopening of U.S. borders to all vaccinated travelers on November 8. We analyze the trajectory of U.S. services and how the lifting of the travel ban might contribute to the rebound of U.S. services exports.
A Liberty Street Economics post from last summer by Matthew Higgins and Thomas Klitgaard contained an assessment of the Phase One trade agreement between the United States and China. The authors of that note found that, depending on how successfully the deal was implemented, the impact on U.S. economic growth could have been substantially larger than originally foreseen by many of its critics, as a result of the fact that the pandemic had depressed the U.S. economy far below its potential growth path. Here we take another look at these considerations with the benefit of an additional year’s worth of trade data and a much different economic environment in the United States.
Hunter Clark takes a look at China’s export performance for 2020, which has been stronger than expected owing to an export structure well-positioned for the COVID-19 crisis.
The imposition of Section 301 tariffs on about half of China’s exports to the United States has coincided with a fall in imports from China and gains for other countries. The U.S.-China trade conflict also appears to be accelerating an ongoing shift in foreign direct investment (FDI) from China to other emerging markets, particularly in Asia. Within the region, Vietnam is often cited as a clear beneficiary of these trends, a rising economy that could displace China, to some extent, in global supply chains. In this note, we examine the data and conclude that Vietnam is indeed gaining market share, but is too small to replace China anytime soon.
China international trade service balance of payments imports exports tourism current account balance
This week, we released our August surveys of manufacturers and service firms. Our Supplemental Survey Report, released this morning, reveals how businesses view the effects of recent trade policy on their costs, prices, sales, and profits. The results suggest that recent tariffs are raising both input costs and selling prices for local businesses, and these effects appear to be more widespread for manufacturers than for service firms.
Import tariffs are on the rise in the United States, with a long list of new tariffs imposed in the last few months—25 percent on steel imports, 10 percent on aluminum, and 25 percent on $50 billion of goods from China—and possibly more to come on China and the auto industry. One of the objectives of these new tariffs is to reduce the U.S. trade deficit, which stood at $568.4 billion in 2017 (2.9 percent of GDP). The fact that the United States imports far more than it exports is viewed by some as unfair, so the idea is to try to reduce the amount that the nation imports from the rest of the world. While more costly imports are likely to reduce the quantity and value of imports into the United States, the story does not stop there, because we cannot presume that the value of exports will remain unchanged. In this post, we argue that U.S. exports will also fall, not only because of other countries’ retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports, but also because the costs for U.S. firms producing goods for export will rise and make U.S. exports less competitive on the world market. The end result is likely to be lower imports and lower exports, with little improvement in the trade deficit.
One of the major debates in open economy macroeconomics is the extent to which capital inflows are beneficial for growth. In principle, these flows allow countries to increase their consumption and investment spending beyond their income by enabling them to tap into foreign saving. Periods of such borrowing, however, are associated with large trade deficits, external debt accumulation, and, in some cases, overheating when these economies operate beyond their potential output level for an extended period of time. The relevant question in this context is whether the rate at which a country is taking on external debt has useful predictive information about financial crises.