Former UC Berkeley economics department chair Maurice Obstfeld to join International Monetary Fund

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UC Berkeley economics professor Maurice Obstfeld will join the International Monetary Fund as its new chief economist, according to a Monday announcement.

Obstfeld, currently on leave from UC Berkeley while serving on President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, will counsel the IMF’s 188 member countries and oversee its research as part of his new position. He will replace current Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard beginning in September.

In a press release from the IMF, Managing Director Christine Lagarde said Obstfeld’s position is “of fundamental importance” to the organization, as he will provide policy analysis and advice to its member countries.

“People have mixed opinions about the IMF, and there is a lot of politics involved,” said Shachar Kariv, current chair of UC Berkeley’s economics department. “But I cannot think of anyone better than Maurice to examine both international and development economics in this role from a scholarly perspective.”

Obstfeld’s research focuses mainly on international macroeconomics, including exchange rates and global capital markets. He has co-authored two textbooks and published more than 100 papers over the course of his career.

According to Robert Feenstra, a UC Davis economics professor who studied with Obstfeld at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-wrote an article with him published in 2014, Obstfeld was influential in creating some of the early mathematical models dealing with trade imbalances among countries.

“He pushed forward in that frontier of research and is widely recognized for it,” Feenstra said. “He understands problems in the eurozone from a theoretical as well as a practical and political perspective.”

In his new role as chief economist, Obstfeld will analyze how the economic policies of one economy affect other economies around the globe, according to Galina Hale, who got to know Obstfeld while earning a doctorate in economics at UC Berkeley.

Obstfeld declined to comment for the article.

Obstfeld joined the UC Berkeley economics department in 1989 and served as chair of the department from 1998 to 2001.

Contact Ariel Hayat at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ArielHayat.

A previous version of this article may have implied that Galina Hale and Maurice Obstfeld worked together at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In fact, they each held visiting scholar positions at the Bank.