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The inflationary consequences of deglobalisation

Shang-Jin Wei and Tao Wang
Shang-Jin Wei and Tao Wang7/20/2022 02:29 PM GMT+08  • 4 min read
The inflationary consequences of deglobalisation
The Waigaoqiao container port in Shanghai. Trump’s trade war with China means households must now pay substantially more for Chinese-made goods / Photo: Bloomberg
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The return of high inflation in many developed economies seems to have surprised central banks and has quickly become people’s leading economic worry. While monetary tightening is necessary, the role of structural factors warrants attention, too. Specifically, besides supply-chain disruptions and the energy and food-price shocks, policymakers must also acknowledge more explicitly the inflationary consequences of deglobalisation.

During the two decades before the 2008 global financial crisis, globalisation seemed unstoppable. The volume of global trade increased more than twice as fast as world GDP, as liberalisation of trade and investment in developing Asia, Latin America, and Central and Eastern Europe contributed to a boom in cross-border reallocation of production flows of final and intermediate goods.

The hyper-globalization of this period, and notably the integration of China into world trade and investment portfolios, helped to reduce inflationary pressures in developed economies. For example, when overall annual US inflation was hovering around 2%, goods inflation was often about –1%. While US import prices of manufactured goods from industrialised countries rose by 33% between 1990 and 2008, prices of goods from developing countries increased by a mere 3.4%. Furthermore, the smallest price increases were for products imported largely from China.

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