Reservas y neo-mercantilismo

Vox tiene un post sobre el tema la acumulación de reservas y sus efectos sobre el bienestar. El articulo se refiere a mucha bibliográfica que aparece al final del mismo.


These facts run counter the logic of conventional open-economy growth models, in which countries with rapid productivity growth are predicted to run current-account deficits so as to accelerate the build-up of their domestic capital stock. The literature has offered two different explanations for this seeming contradiction.

  • The first views reserve accumulation as a form of precautionary savings to insure against future adverse shocks (see e.g., Aizenmann and Marion 2003, Durdu et al. 2009, Mendoza et al. 2009, and Carroll and Jeanne 2009).

While there is certainly some truth in this view, it is not clear if this desire to insure against shocks of realistic magnitude is enough to generate the massive volume of reserves currently held by emerging markets.

  • The second explanation attributes much of Emerging Asia’s reserve accumulation to a “neo-mercantilist” development strategy that aims to promote economic growth by expanding exports.

This has been argued, for example, by Dooley et al. (2003) and Rodrik (2009). Mercantilism was a widespread economic doctrine in Europe during from the sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century. It held that nations would prosper by encouraging exports and limiting imports – or, in modern terms, by achieving a surplus in their trade balance.


Our analysis takes the perspective of a small country that does not affect equilibrium in world markets. What about the effects of neo-mercantilist reserve accumulation on the global economy? In a two-country setting, reserve accumulation by a country subject to learning-by-investing externalities may improve world welfare if the second country is free of such growth externalities. This may be the case if the second country has reached a more advanced stage of development at which learning-by-investing externalities no longer occur. In such a situation, the second country benefits from cheap imports financed by foreign borrowing, while the exporting country benefits from internalising the externality.

In a multi-country setting, things are more complicated. Developed countries that are free of growth externalities still benefit from other countries’ reserve accumulation, but countries that exhibit learning-by-investing effects impose negative beggar-thy-neighbour externalities on each other when they engage in reserve accumulation.

In other words, more countries embracing neo-mercantilist strategies reduce the chances of it working in terms of growth and welfare.


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