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1. On 7 and 8 September 2006, economics researches from the EU and the US gathered in Brussels for the third annual research conference, which is devoted to the subject of «Adjustment under monetary unions: financial market issues».
Opening the session on «Key policy questions», Vitor Gaspar of the Bank of Portugal, presenting a paper co-authored with Gabriel Fagan of the ECB, spoke about «adjusting to the euro». Pointing out that participation in monetary union brings complex consequences, he presented an analytical model that explains several of these. Preparations for EMU caused a number of Member State economies to converge more than others. In particular he cited Greece, Spain, Ireland, Italy and Portugal, which had relatively high interest rates that converged on those of Germany and other states that had lower interest rates. In addition to lowering the cost of borrowing, EMU brought these countries easier access to international financial markets and encouraged liberalization and integration. The consequence of this was easier access to cheaper money in these countries, which gave a significant impulse to consumer and household expenditure and borrowing, thus producing a fall in savings and an increase in current account deficits as spending pulled in imports and external capital was widely available to finance the resulting imbalances.
2. In the second session, Werner Roeger, who had written a paper jointly with Sven Langedijk, presented a model-based analysis of economic adjustment in the euro area. The model, which distinguishes between tradable and non-tradable sectors and further disaggregates non-tradables into housing and services, analyses the experience of four countries that have different economic-adjustment experiences under the euro. These countries are: Germany, Spain, Ireland and Portugal. The result suggest that diverging growth, inflation and current account developments may be attributed to adjustments to the euro-area framework, which seem to have broadly run their course. Country-specific shocks to housing investment, the labour market and total factor productivity also play a role in explaining the persistence of output and inflation differentials in the euro area. Michael Bergman, who is a senior professor of the University of Copenhagen, also considered economic shocks – in particular, how sectoral real exchange rates (which reflect price and exchange rate differences between countries) react to shocks and how they recover over time. Using price data from 24 manufacturing sectors and ten euro-area members, Bergmann presented results that suggest the introduction of the euro has not had a significant effect on the recovery rates of price differentials resulting from economic shocks. Rather, the industry type plays a larger role with more competitive capital-intensive sectors adjusting prices more rapidly than less-competitive sectors that maintain price differentials longer.