Kicking away the financial ladder? German development banking under economic globalisation

with Anne Harrow & Ha-Joon Chang
Review of International Political Economy

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While extensive literature exists on how economic globalisation has limited developing countries' policy space for industrial policy, the literature on how it has affected advanced economies remains scant. We utilise original archival material to analyse the activities of the German public development bank, the Kreditantstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), in order to shed light on an important, but neglected aspect of German industrial policy. We analyse how the KfW responded to multiple challenges after the rise of economic globalisation, including a funding crisis, international agreements to limit export subsidies and Europeanisation. We argue that KfW successfully managed to navigate these challenges in order to retain, and even increase, its ability to conduct selective industrial policy in the post-1980s era. This was possible because of Germany's hard currency and low sovereign credit risk, large market size, which was augmented by membership in the European Union, and Germany's position as regional hegemon within Europe. More broadly, this shows how, conditional on domestic politics, advanced economies are able to shape and exploit the rules of the international economic system to implement industrial policies their advantage, even as developing countries are given the opposite policy recommendations.

 

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