Date Presented:23-24 July
An integrated world economy requires cooperation among major economic powers. Without determined cooperation among the principal powers, globalization is unlikely to survive the inevitable shocks to which it is subjected.
The world faces a difficult adjustment to reduce the macroeconomic imbalances that were a major cause of the current crisis. This means reducing the surpluses of the major surplus countries in East Asia and Europe, and reducing the deficits of the major deficit countries in North America and Europe. Both processes require substantial domestic economic changes; economies and people will be tempted to turn inward, and governments will be tempted to reduce the priority they give to their external ties. This increases the risks of a breakdown in international cooperation.
Historical precedent is instructive. During the interwar period, a global macroeconomic imbalance was a major cause of the eventual economic catastrophe. During the 1920s, Germany borrowed heavily from the United States. But when a crisis hit, it turned out that neither country was politically prepared to maintain cooperative policies. Americans, focused on domestic concerns, were unwilling to help work out a cooperative resolution of the crisis. Germany exploded into social and political unrest and ended up in the hands of rabid nationalists and protectionists. The problem was political: a lack of domestic support for the sacrifices necessary to maintain international cooperation.
As the crisis winds down and post-crisis adjustment begins, major governments will be challenged to work together to support a well-functioning international economy. They will need to address the concerns of constituents who will chafe at the economic changes forced upon them. Governments that can build domestic political support for international economic engagement will be in a stronger position to work to sustain an integrated global economy.