David M. Smick
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David Smick is founder, editor, and publisher
of The International Economy magazine,
a quarterly publication and forum for the G7 policymaking community.

   Spring 2009

About The International Economy Magazine

Founded twenty years ago, The International Economy is a specialized quarterly magazine covering global financial policy, economic trends, and international trade. Labeled by the Washington Post “that precocious Washington [quarterly],” the publication is edited for and read by central bankers, politicians, and members of the financial community including professional investment managers, macroeconomic specialists, and high net-worth global investors. Widely recognized and quoted in the popular business press, the focused editorial content has attracted a loyal readership base among the world’s most powerful and influential decisionmakers.

Two decades ago, four hundred guests stood at a VIP reception at the Federal Reserve in Washington as then-Chairman Alan Greenspan welcomed the new publication into existence. Within months, the Washington Post described The International Economy as “not some tiresome, gray journal but a publication consistently ahead of the curve.” The New York Times defined the magazine’s role within the international community as follows: “Economist to economist, in English.” Later, the Washington Post said the magazine was “targeted to—and written by—the power brokers in the world of finance.” From the start, the magazine became an instant policy bulletin board for the world’s decision makers, particularly for G7 policymakers.

The magazine enjoys a powerful and influential editorial advisory board. Leading that board is Karl Otto Pöhl, the head of the German Bundesbank during the first five years of the magazine’s existence. Indeed, in 1987 Pöhl was the most powerful policy figure in Europe and agreed while still in office to head the advisory board. Jean-Claude Trichet, the current head of the European Central Bank and the most influential European economic policymaker today, is an enthusiastic supporter of the magazine and sits on the advisory board.

There are a number of reasons for such support, but the most important is the publication’s intellectually independent editorial content. When Russian leader Boris Yeltsin was about to assume office and the international community was fixated on the nature of his economic reforms, Yeltsin’s chief economic strategist Grigory Yavlinsky came to Washington and met with various news outlets and think tanks. He chose The International Economy to publish the full text of Yeltsin’s economic/financial reform plan. The day after its publication, the New York Times ran a three-page story crediting The International Economy for this scoop, with other papers following suit. One reason the Russians chose this particular magazine was that they saw its broad base of writers from the highest echelons of the policy world, from then-Secretary of State James A. Baker III to then-Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, from foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski to global international financier George Soros, from Republican Richard Perle to Democrat Larry Summers. In 1990, the magazine won an award for its cover depicting Mikhail Gorbachev, then Soviet leader, working at a McDonald’s checkout counter.

One additional reason for The International Economy’s visibility is that the publication has sponsored a series of highly publicized and influential global conferences involving many of the world’s most senior policy officials and the media. These well-publicized conferences took place over the course of a decade in Tokyo, New York, Washington, Frankfurt, Vienna, and Zürich. In 1988 in Zürich, one of the conference participants, Senator Bill Bradley, floated a proposal for third world debt restructuring, the outlines of which the Bush I Administration eventually adopted. The concept was subsequently labeled “The Brady Debt Plan.” Scores of reporters at that conference raced for the telephones when U.S. Treasury official David Mulford publicly announced agreement with the general Bradley debt restructuring concept.

Every several years, The International Economy honors a designated “Policymaker of the Year.” The award ceremony is held during the time of the IMF/World Bank meeting where hundreds of officials, private bankers, and international journalists attend a private reception. Alan Greenspan received this award at a highly publicized ceremony in Washington. European Central Bank head Trichet received the award before an audience of more than a thousand officials and bankers/investors in Tokyo. Karl Otto Pöhl was honored at a ceremony in New York, as was Bundesbank President Hans Tietmeyer. Clinton Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers has also received recognition from the magazine.

The International Economy has fought to remain a niche magazine, refusing to follow the trend to dramatically broaden in its editorial base. Other magazines have over the last twenty years tried to compete with the publication, and none have succeeded. For example, the Davos organization which sponsors the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, set up a competing publication which ceased any meaningful circulation within a few years. Other institutions have set up similar magazines. Even given the prestige of several of these institutes, the publications closed their doors within several years. Today a top official at the leading think tank in the field, Adam Posen of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, serves as one of TIE’s executive editors, responsible for commissioning a number of articles in each issue.

One reason the publication has endured is that the international community has seen over the last two decades the emergence of an international economic statecraft of sorts. This statecraft now sits side-by-side with the statecraft long established during the Cold War in the field of foreign policy and defense. That latter statecraft of course enjoys the benefit of important publications such as Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy. After twenty years of existence, The International Economy finds itself in a uniquely exclusive role as part of the new international economic statecraft. Important decisionmakers pick it up precisely because it has been around so long. All know it and trust its content.