UC Berkeley economist appointed to White House Council of Economic Advisers

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UC Berkeley added a sixth faculty member to its list of those who have held positions on the U.S. president’s Council of Economic Advisers in the last 20 years.

Maurice “Maury” Obstfeld, a professor of economics, will be joining the White House’s three-person council this summer, the White House announced Tuesday. As an adviser on the council, Obstfeld will be working directly with President Barack Obama to apply economic analyses to today’s policy issues at home and abroad, said campus economics professor David Romer, whose wife Christina Romer, also a professor of economics on campus, chaired the council from 2009 to 2010.

“If you were thinking about it from the White House’s point of view, you would think of a dream person for this job, and you’d immediately think of Maury,” David Romer said.

Obstfeld specializes in international macroeconomics and has been teaching at UC Berkeley for 25 years. One of Obstfeld’s notable accomplishments is his development of the “self-fulfilling crisis” model, which shows how speculation against a country’s currency dictates economic outcomes. Yuriy Gorodnichenko, a campus associate professor of economics and Obstfeld’s colleague of seven years, said the model was developed by examining how Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Finland are prone to economic crises.

Gorodnichenko said Obstfeld is the ideal candidate for a position in the council because of his international connections and extensive body of research.

“Maury is truly a leading economist in the profession,” Gorodnichenko said. “He is one of the fathers of international economics as we have it now.”

Among the wide array of policy issues Obstfeld will be working on with Obama, questions of international trade and finance will be addressed through current negotiations with Europe, China and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a recently formed trade agreement. Obstfeld could be working on anything from economic sanctions on Iran or Russia to energy and environmental regulations, said Carl Shapiro, a campus professor of economics who served on the council from 2011 to 2012.

Shapiro said the number of UC Berkeley economists who have been in the White House reflects positively on the economics department, establishing it as a practical center for public policy issues.

“It’s more than any other school,” Shapiro said. “We’re interested in academics, but we’re also interested in having our work applied and doing things that matter.”

The typical length of time economists serve on the council is about two years, Gorodnichenko said, after which they return to their home universities.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled, other than the part where he won’t be around,” David Romer said. “It’s wonderful that someone who is so qualified and smart is going to be helping to improve policy. It’s great for the country.”

Contact Natalie Meier at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @nat_meier.