Exchange rate devaluation and trade balance
In relation to Marshall-Lerner Condition, if trade balance improves in the long-run due to currency devaluation to a level higher than the level before devaluation under the J-Curve assumptions, we can consider the Marshall-Lerner Condition fully satisfied [ 7 ].
If not, the Marshall-Lerner Condition is not satisfied and the J-Curve is expected to flatten on lower level compared to the level before devaluation [ 32 ]. The time frame for the J-Curve, before the Marshall-Lerner Condition kicks in and improves the trade balance, is said to be anytime between a few months to two or three years [ 30 , 33 ].
The approach of elasticity is mainly criticized for being a partial equilibrium approach which does account for the macroeconomic effects arising from price changes and production fluctuations in response to currency devaluation [ 34 ]. In fact, it only accounts for the value and volume responses to price changes.
On the other hand, in the absorption and Monetary Approaches, depreciation is related to macroeconomic variables that usually undermine the favorable impact of the exchange rate devaluation on the trade balance. The Absorption Approach merges the elasticities approach with the Keynesian macroeconomics. It was formally modeled in early s by Meade [ 35 ], Alexander [ 36 ], and others. All variables are measurements in real terms since this approach treats prices as constant.
The sum of these four categories is also referred to as Domestic Absorption: This indicates that the trade account improves only if domestic output growth exceeds domestic absorption [ 37 ]. A currency devaluation improves trade balance if the substitution towards domestic goods in response to the relative price change boosts output more than absorption. In reality, this is more likely to happen in an economy characterized by excess capacity where the Keynesian multiplier effect works [ 38 ].
In an economy near full employment, or one facing strong production bottlenecks, output is not likely to increase and the trade balance could improve only if absorption decreases. Inflationary pressures also undermine the relative price shifts that induce an increase in export production and a decline in consumption of imported goods [ 34 ]. In summary, trade balance under the Absorption Approach is a function of real income and absorption domestic consumption. Trade balance can improve if there is an increase in output or a decrease in domestic consumption or both.
Suppose is constant and the economy is not in full employment mostly in developing countries ; when currency devaluation occurs the ultimate effect is expected to be an increase in output, thus a trade balance improvement. As mainly championed by the contributions of Harry Johnson and Jacob Frenkel in the early s, nearly the same time the J-Curve theory emerged, the Monetary Approach suggests that devaluation should be understood in a monetary context.
Thus, a balance of payments deficit is solely a monetary phenomenon mainly caused by excessive money supply [ 37 ]. Currency devaluation has an impact on the balance of payments only through its effect on real money supply. Therefore, a devaluation increases the balance of payment by increasing domestic prices and thereby reducing the real money supply.
Devaluations fail if they are followed by further increases in the nominal money supply that reestablish the original disequilibrium.
The long-run effect on the trade balance is thus ambiguous [ 38 ]. When a country devaluates currency, the real value of the money supply decreases due to the increase in prices of traded commodities and services measured in the domestic prices.
Mathematically, this can be shown as where is the nominal money supply, is money demand, is income output , and is the nominal exchange rate. The relation can be summarized as follows: The decline in consumption results ultimately in a reduction in absorption and trade balance improvement. Additionally, as argued by Johnson [ 39 ], an increase in money supply gives rise to the level of real balances; thus, individuals forecast their wealth to rise, causing the level of expenditures to increase relative to income and the trade balance to deteriorate.
Thus, the effect of money supply on the balance of trade is negative. In the same context, Miles [ 40 ] argues that the negative effect might not be observed in the following cases.
First, the nominal money balance may be a small fraction of total wealth. Second, the private sector may not perceive money as net wealth. Third, response of expenditures to changes in wealth could be insignificant. The most significant implication of the Monetary Approach is that if the monetary authorities expand money supply after devaluation to meet the new demand for money, the effect of devaluation is believed to be preserved.
Some empirical studies argued that excess money supply might increase consumption and lower the trade balance [ 41 , 42 ]. This study systemized the theoretical literature on the effect of exchange rate movements on trade balance into four approaches, namely, a Standard Theory of International Trade, b Elasticity Approach, c Keynesian Absorption Approach, and d Monetary Approach.
A special stress on the chronological order of appearance and development of each approach was presented throughout the paper. Although some researchers point out that the four approaches mentioned above are all correct in essence [ 34 ], many differences in the plausibility and empirical applicability can still be seen as discussed in the following three points.
First, although the Standard Theory of International Trade provided fertile grounds and gave some basics for the latter approaches, the theory barely discussed the effects of exchange rate on trade balance and merely championed free trade through the principles of Absolute Advantage of Adam Smith and the Comparative Advantage of David Ricardo.
Additionally, this approach seems to be at odds with the Monetary Approach in a specific aspect; that is, the latter disagrees with the claim that exchange rate depreciation can improve trade balance perpetually as explained above. Moreover, all other approaches disagree with the Standard Trade Theory in its claim that currency depreciation improves trade balance unconditionally.
Second, the Keynesian based Absorption Approach and the Monetary Approach both focus on the macroeconomic linkages and identities, rather than the microeconomic relationships of the Elasticity Approach. Thus, the relationship between the trade-exchange rate issue and other macroeconomic variables could be better understood under these two approaches. However, relatively few empirical studies investigated these two approaches.
This might be due to the fact that both approaches were not substantially improved to cope with dramatic changes in the nature of the current account balance in post-Bretton Woods era, which left these two approaches underdeveloped and rudimentary. Third, the Elasticity Approach, which was origanally triggered by the novel ideas of Bickerdike [ 18 ], Marshall and Groenewegen [ 23 ] and passed through several stages of improvement for almost half a century, can be considered as the most important breakthrough in the context of assessing the impact of exchange rate on trade balance [ 34 ].
This is reflected by the enormous number of empirical studies which investigated it. However, the dynamic view of this approach, the J-Curve theory, gained most of the attention [ 43 ]. In fact, by assessing all the theories mentioned above, one can conclude that the J-Curve is the most affluent among all for the reasons stated in the following: The reasons mentioned above make the J-Curve approach one of the most tested, yet debated, theories in the literature.
The J-Curve provides vital information for monetary policymakers and economists [ 44 ]. The authors declare that there is no conflict of interests regarding the publication of this paper.
Home Journals About Us. Abstract This paper evaluates the current state of the literature concerning the effects of exchange rate movements on trade balance. Introduction As one of the widely used economic indicators, real exchange rate can be simply defined as the nominal exchange rate that takes inflation differentials among countries into account [ 1 ]. Empirically, it has been found that trade in goods tends to be inelastic in the short term, as it takes time to change consuming patterns and trade contracts.
In the long term, consumers will adjust to the new prices, and the trade balance will improve. This effect is called the J-curve effect. For example, assume a country is a net importer of oil and a net producer of ships.
Initially, the devaluation immediately increases the price of oil, and as consumption patterns remain the same in the short term, an increased sum is spent on imported oil, worsening the deficit on the import side. Meanwhile, it takes some time for the shipbuilder's sales department to exploit the lower price and secure new contracts.
Only the funds acquired from previously agreed contracts, now devalued by the currency devaluation, are immediately available, again worsening the deficit on the export side. Using this definition, the trade balance denominated in domestic currency with domestic and foreign prices normalized to one is given by:. Thus, the fall of in this definition also indicates real appreciation of domestic currency [ 6 ].
Both definitions stated above rely on the assumption that home country has only one trading partner. However, in some empirical studies, such an assumption might be invalid. By considering this fact, we can distinguish a third definition called the real effective exchange rate. In REER definition, the real exchange rate corresponds to a group of countries instead of one partner only. Following some weighting criteria, the share of the bilateral trade to total trade volume or the share of the currencies used in the international trade transactions can be given as examples of these weighting criteria [ 8 ].
By stating these differing definitions of real exchange rate, it should be noted that some studies have discussed the role of nominal exchange rate on trade balance instead of the real exchange rate. This difference is mainly due to whether the country follows a pigged or free-floating exchange rate regime.
Thus, the reader should understand the theories stated in this study in line with these definitions. Different empirical and theoretical studies have investigated the effect of exchange rate movements on trade balance. The next section systemizes these studies into four broad approaches to ease the understanding of the historical improvement of the topic. This paper is theoretical in nature and specifically a review article on the determinants effect of exchange rate movement on the trade balance.
It provides a survey of the alternative theories that focus on the effect of exchange rate changes on the trade balance. Data and information are collected through the libraries and recognized journals both local and international.
This simply suggests that secondary sources are predominantly used in the methodology of this study. The next section systemizes these studies into four different reviews and approaches of exchange rate movements on trade balance to ease the understanding of the historical improvement of the topic. During the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, Mercantilism was the dominant economic system of most industrial countries. The Mercantilist approach to international trade assumed that the wealth of a nation depends chiefly on its ability to possess precious metals such as gold and silver.
The possession of those metals took place through supporting exports and encouraging metal discoveries in the Americas and, on the other hand, suppressing imports through imposing excessive tariffs [ 9 ]. After almost three centuries of instability and economic failure, Mercantilism was strongly criticized by what became to be known later as the Standard Theory of International Trade [ 10 ].
The two books heralded the formulation of a theory of free trade, based on the unprecedented success of England in the respective fields of industry and trade [ 13 ]. Standard Trade Theory relates merchandise with the movements of real exchange rate following a simple common sense approach.
Setting all other variables fixed, a fluctuation in exchange rate affects both the value and volume of trade. If real exchange rate increases in home country, that is, real depreciation, the households can get less imported goods in exchange for a unit of domestic goods and services.
Thereby, a unit of imported goods would give higher number of units of domestic goods. Eventually, domestic households buy fewer imports while foreign households purchase relatively more domestic goods. Ultimately, the higher the real exchange rate for the home country, the more the trade surplus the country obtains [ 14 ].
Lerner further extended the typical trade theory by accounting for demand price elasticities of imports and exports as instrumental elements in measuring the effect of real exchange rate variations on trade balance. Thus, a rise in exports and a reduction in imports due to depreciation in real exchange rate do not necessarily mean a correction of trade balance deficit. According to Lerner, trade balance is not concerned with the volume of physical goods but with their actual values [ 15 ].
In elasticities approach, trade balance adjustment path is viewed on the basis of elasticities of demand for imports and exports. The elasticity of demand is defined as the quantity responsiveness of demanded goods or services to changes in price [ 16 ]. Although the Elasticity Approach is commonly known as Bickerdike-Robinson-Metzler Condition [ 17 ], Bickerdike [ 18 ] was actually the one who originally developed and laid the foundations of this approach by modeling nominal import and export prices as functions of import and export quantities [ 19 , 20 ].
Bickerdike-Robinson-Metzler Condition implies that the change in the foreign currency value of the trade balance depends upon the import and export supply and demand elasticities and the initial volume of trade. As can be seen, all discussions in the elasticities approach revolve around the questions of volume and value responses to changes in real exchange rate.
Figure 1 summarizes the case of domestic elasticity of supply in a devaluating country. As shown, the same logic also applies to the domestic demand. However, as depicted in Figure 1 , lower prices in the domestic country as a result of currency devaluation will normally increase foreign demand for domestic goods, but only when foreign demand is elastic.
On the other hand, if foreign demand elasticity for domestic goods is weak, the quantity of domestic goods will not rise to the extent that it exceeds the decline in the value of exports caused by the cheaper prices [ 23 ].
Following the same notions, the case of domestic elasticity of demand can be understood in the same context. The consumers will then compensate by consuming domestic rather than foreign goods forcing the value of imports to decline. In summary, if the decline in value of domestic imports is greater than the decline in value of domestic exports, the trade balance will improve.
Policymakers apply the Elasticity Approach in reality when a country faces trade balance deficit. They would have to consider the responsiveness of imports and exports for a change in exchange rate to measure to which extent devaluation would affect the trade balance. However, if foreign and domestic demands for imports and exports are elastic, a small change in the spot exchange rate might have substantial impact on trade balance [ 24 ].
Marshall-Lerner Condition is a further extension of the elasticities approach. The condition could be seen as an implication of the work of Bickerdike [ 18 ]. Nevertheless, it was named after Alfred Marshall who was born in and died in , since he is considered as the father of the elasticity as a concept and Lerner [ 15 ] for his later exposition of it [ 19 ].
Assuming trade in services, investment-income flows, and unilateral transfers are equal to zero, so that the trade account is equal to the current account, Marshall-Lerner Condition states that the sum of the absolute values of the two elasticities must exceed unity [ 25 ]. Conversely, if the sum is less than one, trade balance worsens when a depreciation takes place [ 15 ]. The first is that trade was initially balanced when exchange rate depreciation took place, so that the foreign currency value of exports equals the foreign currency value of imports.
The effect can be explained as depicted in Figure 2. Following a currency depreciation, the trade balance is to improve only when the volume effect shown in A and B outweighs the price effect denoted as C. However, the Marshall-Lerner Condition is also indicative of stability. If the sum of the two import and export demand elasticities does not exceed unity, the equilibrium is unstable and an economic model with an unstable equilibrium could be inefficient for measuring the outcome of exchange rate depreciation on trade [ 27 ].
Almost three decades after the generalization of the Marshall-Lerner Condition, the J-Curve theory came into existence.