Capital Flows Liberalization: Between Structural Transformations, Circular Debates and Multilateral Frameworks

Étienne LEPERS * Économiste, Unité de finance internationale de la division de l'investissement, OCDE. Contact :'auteur tient à remercier Winfrid Blaschke pour ses commentaires sur des versions préliminaires de cet article. Les vues exprimées dans cet article sont celles de l'auteur et ne reflètent pas celles de l'OCDE ou de ses pays membres.

At a time when the question of the management of capital flows and the usefulness of controls is once again on the agenda, this article revisits the key drivers of capital account policy since 1970. The structural push towards liberalisation in the 1980's and 90's and the different timing across countries cannot be solely explained by a clear-cut scientific consensus on the benefits of free capital movements, nor by structural transformations in the global financial system. This article points notably to the crucial role of multilateral frameworks on capital flow management such as those of the EU, the OECD and the IMF in influencing countries' courses. It also emphasizes the cyclicality of debates about the costs and benefits of liberalisation over time and argues that a long-run historical perspective provides a useful critical background to on-going debates.

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