Financial Liberalization in East Asia: Lessons from Financial Crises and the Chinese Experience of Controlled Liberalization
Journal of World Trade, Forthcoming
28 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2006
This paper studies the experiences of East Asian countries in conducting financial liberalization. Financial liberalization has two components, which are capital account liberalization and financial services liberalization. It is important to stress that the two components should not be confused, so are their respective consequences on a country's economic growth and financial stability. Both the theoretical and empirical studies have established that premature capital account liberalization was the direct cause of various financial crises, including the 1997-98 Asian Crisis. It is highly advisable that countries delay capital account liberalization or maintain capital controls before they put into place effective domestic regulatory framework and financial infrastructure. Based on the experiences of Malaysia and China in managing the Asian crisis, the paper argues that, in addition to having appropriately sequenced, gradualist reforms on capital account liberalization, a country should keep certain regulatory space for itself and maintain independently the financial policy-making power.
However, financial services liberalization should not be retarded by these factors. An analysis of the four modes of GATT's services supplies suggests that trade in financial services does not necessarily involve massive capital flows and that financial services liberalization does not require abandonment of capital controls. Financial services liberalization improves the capabilities of a country's financial sector, enhances efficient capital reallocation, and brings tremendous benefits to consumers. Moreover, unlike capital account liberalization, trade liberalization in financial services will not contribute to financial instability and crises. The paper surveys the liberalization measures of financial services in selected Asian countries and concludes that more broad-based liberalization should be promoted. The paper argues that, however, it is understandable that a country wishes to provide certain protection to its domestic financial services sector at the initial stage of its development. After all, no country is born with a strong financial industry. However, the government providing protection should be wise enough to know at which point the protection should be terminated. In this regard, Singapore's experience of developing into a leading international financial center is an illustrating example.
Keywords: Financial liberalization, Financial services, capital account liberalization, East Asia, China
JEL Classification: F10, F14, F32, G2, K2
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