Transcripts of the monetary policymaking body of the Federal Reserve from 2002–2008.

Well, two or three things come to mind. No one of them alone would seem to explain it, but in conjunction they may be a partial answer to your question. One is that following the Asian financial crisis, and no doubt in part in response to what has been happening in the United States, particularly since say, ’95 or ’96, most of these countries have been running current account surpluses and acquiring international reserves. The Asian countries have been doing it to the extreme. They’ve been piling up reserves and protecting themselves from being dependent upon the whims of foreign investors ever since that crisis. And they’re still doing it, although I noted an article in today’s Wall Street Journal quoting some Chinese officials as saying that maybe they now had enough. So I took that to be an interesting sign.

December 13, 2005 16 of 100

The Latin American countries—for many of the same reasons, but without quite the same capacity—have nonetheless put themselves in a position of an external plus instead of a minus. Now, the Latin Americans, in particular, and some of the Asians have outstanding debts, so they have payments schedules they have to meet. It’s not as if they are not in some sense still embroiled in the consequences of their histories and so forth. But their position vis-à-vis global capital flows has turned around enormously, and they have never gone back to policies that reflect an attitude of “the crisis is over, full steam ahead.” They have retained this preference for keeping themselves net lenders in a flow sense in the international capital flow. There are many reasons to view that as a problem as much as a good thing, but it explains, I think, why Argentina didn’t have much contagion effect and why these countries seem to us to be doing better.

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