DP824 | A Payments Mechanism for the Former Soviet Union: Is the EPU a Relevant Precedent?


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Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the trade of its successor states has spiralled downward. The European Payments Union of the 1950s is frequently invoked as a model for solving this problem. In this paper I show that in fact the EPU is an inappropriate framework for organizing the former Soviet Union's trade and payments. The only multilateral clearing union that is feasible prior to stabilization is one based on continuous multilateral balance among the participating countries. Such an arrangement is identical in its essentials to current account convertibility. In effect, then, the only choices available to the former Soviet Union prior to stabilization are bilateralism and convertibility. I make the case for convertibility and against current proposals for an Interstate Bank.