Berkeley economist appointed to a top IMF post

The International Monetary Fund announced today the appointment of UC Berkeley economist Maurice Obstfeld — an authority on international finance and macroeconomics — as the economic counselor and director of the IMF’s Research Department.

Obstfeld is expected to exit his current position on the White House Council of Economic Advisers, which he has held for the past year while on leave from Berkeley, and assume his new post on Sept. 8.

Maurice Obstfeld

Berkeley economist Maurice Obstfeld is taking a post with the International Monetary Fund.

The key mission of the IMF is to ensure stability of the international monetary system by monitoring the global economy and the economies of its 188 members, lending to countries experiencing balance-of-payment problems and providing members with practical assistance.

“The position of economic counselor is of fundamental importance to the IMF’s ability to provide its global membership with the best possible independent analysis and policy advice,” said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, noting Obstfeld’s outstanding academic credentials and extensive international experience. She informed the IMF Board of Governors today of the appointment.

Throughout his career, Obstfeld has studied currency crises around the world, international capital market integration, monetary policy, and exchange rates. He has advised numerous governments and central banks around the world, serving as a visiting scholar at the IMF, the Federal Reserve Bank and the Banco de Mexico, a consultant for the World Bank, and an honorary advisor for the Bank of Japan’s Institute of Monetary and Economic Studies.

Christina Romer, a UC Berkeley economist and former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers in the Obama administration, praised Obstfeld’s appointment.

“International economic issues have never been more important for the United States or the world,” said Romer. “I will sleep better at night knowing that Maury is helping to guide the IMF’s critical role.  His academic brilliance, quiet leadership style and all-around good sense make him the perfect person for the job.”

"International Economics" cover

Obstfeld is co-author of major textbooks in the field of economics, including “International Economics: Theory and Policy.”

Obstfeld, the Class of 1958 Professor of Economics, joined the Berkeley faculty in 1989, after holding earlier appointments at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, and a visiting professorship at Harvard University. He also has served as chair of Berkeley’s Department of Economics. Obstfeld holds degrees from MIT, the University of Cambridge’s King’s College and the University of Pennsylvania.

He has co-authored “International Economics,” a widely used undergraduate economics textbook, with Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman of Princeton University and Marc Melitz of Harvard, and with former IMF Economic Counselor Kenneth Rogoff co-authored “Foundations of International Macroeconomics,” the leading graduate textbook on international macroeconomics.

"Foundations of International Macroeconomics" cover

“Foundations of International Macroeconomics” is one of the highly regarded textbooks co-authored by Obstfeld.

Obstfeld has been active as a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, an International Research Fellow at the Kiel Institute of World Economics, and has served on the editorial board of the IMF Economic Review since 2010. Obstfeld also is a fellow of the Econometric Society and American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 2003, Obstfeld was awarded the John von Neumann Award,  given annually by the Rajk László College for Advanced Studies (BudapestHungary), to an outstanding scholar in the exact social sciences, whose works have had substantial influence over a long period on the studies and intellectual activity of the college’s students.

Other Berkeley winners of the Neumann Award include Nobel Prize-winning economist John Harsanyi when the prize was first issued in 1995; Nobel Prize-winning economist Oliver Williamson in 1999; behavioral economist Matthew Rabin in 2006; and economist Emmanuel Saez in 2014. Economist Hal Varian, professor emeritus at Berkeley’s School of Information, economics department and Haas School of Business, received the prize in 1996 while teaching at the University of Michigan.

Obstfeld delivered the keynote addresses at the International Economic Association’s 15th World Congress in 2008, and the annual meeting of the American Economic Association in 2012.