Abstract:  This paper attempts to capture the portfolio incentives for central bank participation in a multilateral trade clearinghouse and to discuss the relation of those incentives to the volume of trade. Clearinghouses for the netting of multilateral intra-regional trade have existed since the 1950s, but no work to date has attempted to explore the incentive effects of such arrangements. Instead previous work, primarily empirical, has focused on the tendency of preferential arrangements (clearing as well as favorable protectionist policies) between nations to encourage trade flows between them. This paper advances the notion that the effects of clearing arrangements must be modelled as a portfolio choice problem, in order to ascertain the precise influence of clearing alone.
The model developed here describes the choice of the central bank between holding reserve balances and investing in productive assets. For a given distribution of net export receipts and a given cash management policy of the central bank, expected daily demand for international reserves is derived. This demand is re-derived to illustrate the effects of a clearinghouse; in addition, reserve demand is augmented to account for debt payments to external creditors.
Regardless of whether the central bank makes external debt payments, the clearing arrangement reduces the demand for reserves to finance trade. It is possible, were the "freed" reserves invested in development of the export industry, that the clearing arrangement could translate into an increased volume of trade. If the country is burdened with external debt payments however, it is possible that the "freed" reserves would simply be used to increase payments to external creditors.
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Last update: November 24, 2008