Authors: Matthew Higgins and Thomas Klitgaard
The Asian countries hit by the 1997-98 currency crisis experienced a sharp reversal of capital flows that forced their current account balances to move from deficit to surplus. This study of the trade flows of Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, and Thailand finds that steep declines in imports, measured in dollar terms, accounted for almost all of the improvements in current account balances. However, a fuller picture emerges when the authors analyze the trade flows according to the volume of goods being shipped and the prices of these goods. The analysis shows that several factors contributed to the current account adjustment: higher export volumes in response to increased foreign demand outside of Asia, lower dollar import prices in line with declining world export prices, and the collapse in import volumes due to sharp declines in domestic economic activity.