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2009年1月 3日 (土)

急変する世界 カギ握る米国経済の再生

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 3, 2009)

Global economic revival hinges on U.S. recovery

急変する世界 カギ握る米国経済の再生(13日付・読売社説)


As if rolling down a steep hill, the global economy has deteriorated rapidly since being hit by the financial crisis that started in the United States.


Trying times will no doubt continue in 2009.


Developed countries, including the United States, European nations and Japan, entered into economic recessions last year, while the four big newly emerging countries, including China and India, saw their booming economies slow down significantly.


The International Monetary Fund predicts that the global economy will further slow this year, with global economic growth rate in real terms to be only about 2 percent. It is the first time since the end of World War II that Japan, the United States and European countries will all register negative economic growth at the same time. China meanwhile is expected to see single-digit economic growth for the second consecutive year.



Rise together, fall together

The so-called decoupling theory, which posits that the economic doldrums of developed countries can be covered by the high growth of the newly emerging economies, has crumbled like cookies. The world cannot find a way out of simultaneous recessions in the absence of an economic engine. When will recovery of the global economy come? Even optimistic economists say the latter half of 2010 or later.



The key factor is the recovery of the U.S. economy. In the United States, housing market conditions continue to deteriorate and the number of unemployed is sharply increasing. Consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, also remains sluggish.


Taking such situations into consideration, the U.S. Federal Reserve Board introduced an essentially zero-interest-rate policy at the end of December. It also has taken quantitative easing measures such as the outright purchase of long-term government bonds.



The Fed has shown its determination to prevent the economy from weakening further and to stop deflation by taking unconventional crisis response measures. However, the Fed's monetary measures alone are not enough. The Fed must coordinate its actions with fiscal measures from the federal government.



Will Obama's stimulus deliver?

Barack Obama, who becomes U.S. president on Jan. 20, is planning to take large economic stimulus measures worth more than 800 billion dollars (72 trillion yen), including tax reductions and public investments such as the maintenance and repair of roads and bridges. He also plans employment measures aimed at creating jobs for 3 million people over two years.


The future 44th president is said to have taken a cue from the New Deal program implemented by the 32nd president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, to tackle the Great Depression that started in 1929. Immediately after he takes office, Obama will be tested on whether he can revive the U.S. economy.


The first challenge for the new president is the rehabilitation of the Big Three automakers--General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC and Ford Motor Co.


U.S. President George W. Bush decided last month to offer huge emergency loans for GM and Chrysler to save them, at least temporarily, from bankruptcy.


The two automakers are required to come up with restructuring plans by the end of March. But, if the plans are found insufficient to make them viable, there will be a possibility that the automakers will have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.


If the automakers go bankrupt, its impact on the global financial market and the world economy will be enormous. The next president will have to make very difficult decisions regarding this.


Measures to deal with the global financial crisis, including a bailout plan for the auto industry and a major economic stimulus package, are expected to inflate the U.S. budget deficit to more than 1 trillion dollars in fiscal 2009. This fiscal deficit will be a heavy burden on the U.S. economy.



Dollar needs to be supported

Major countries must enhance cooperation and act quickly with the United States to rehabilitate the global economy.


European countries, Japan and newly emerging countries such as China are already coordinating fiscal and monetary policy measures in accordance with an agreement reached at the financial summit meeting of leaders of the Group of 20 major industrialized and developing economies in November.


The G-20 leaders are required at the second financial summit to be held in Britain in April to reach agreements on more concrete measures such as restrictions on globally operating financial institutions. They also will focus on the present key currency system based on the U.S. dollar as an increasing number of economists believe the rapid inflation of the U.S. fiscal deficit could undermine confidence in the greenback.



However, it is a fact that there is no other currency that can fill the U.S. dollar's shoes. The presence of the euro, the single European currency, has been increasing since it was first introduced in 1999, but it is still not as strong as the dollar. Discussions at the summit will probably focus on how G-20 countries can help support the U.S. dollar.



Keep protectionism at bay


While the world economy is becoming increasingly jittery, there is an alarming amount of pressure for more trade protectionism.


As if responding to the U.S. government's rescue plan for the Big Three automakers, Russia has raised its import tariffs on automobiles and European countries and China have begun to assist their respective auto industries. Some economists are concerned that if nothing is done the countries could slip into protectionist wars to defend their industries.


The promotion of free trade is needed more than ever in times like today. But, members of the World Trade Organization failed to reach a broad agreement in the Doha Round of trade liberalization talks, which was initially targeted for completion by the end of the year. Japan, the United States, European countries and developing nations failed to resolve their differences.


A bitter lesson can be drawn from the Great Depression, in which bad situations were made worse by many countries turning to protectionism.


WTO members must try hard to reach an agreement in this round of multilateral trade talks as early as possible. In the process, Japan also must voluntarily fulfill its responsibilities.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 3, 2008)

2009130223  読売新聞)


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