In contrast to Davos-in-NY in 2002, when the post-Sept. 11 talk was of the risk of terror and Davos 2003 when the corridor discussion was mostly about Iraq and the impending war, there is no grand obsession this year. There is sensible and mildly worried talk about whether the global economic recovery will be sustained. Most attention is given to the imbalances in the world economy – particularly U.S. budget and current account deficits; the Europeans’ tepid growth and stolid Central Bank reluctance to stimulate; and the Chinese resistance to letting their currency appreciate. In an excellent panel chaired by Martin Wolf on the world economy an Argentine in the audience asked the Chinese and Japanese panelists why they are so willing to accumulate dollar reserves (thus sustaining these worrying imbalances). Surprisingly (or perhaps not) the Chinese panelist did not mention that China’s exchange rate policy and dollar accumulation are driven by the need to create jobs – lots of them and quickly – by keeping exports high, to preserve social cohesion and political stability. Which leads me to a lunchtime talk by President Clinton about global interdependence and the struggle to move to an integrated, not just interdependent, world.
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