Brad W. Setser

Senior Fellow and Acting Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies


Central bank reserves and sovereign wealth funds, IMF policy, emerging market economies.


Brad W. Setser is a senior fellow and acting director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomics at the Council on Foreign Relations. His expertise includes international macro-economics, global capital flows, financial vulnerability analysis, sovereign debt restructuring and the management of financial crises. 

Setser served as the deputy assistant secretary for international economic analysis in the U.S. Treasury from 2011 to 2015, where he worked on Europe’s financial crisis, currency policy, financial sanctions, commodity shocks and Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. He was previously the director for international economics, serving jointly on the staff of the National Economic Council and the National Security Council.  

He is the author of Sovereign Wealth and Sovereign Power (CFR, 2008) and the coauthor, with Nouriel Roubini, of Bailouts and Bail-ins: Responding to Financial Crises in Emerging Economies (Peterson Institute, 2004), which draw lessons emerging market financial crises between 1995 and 2003. His work has been published in Foreign Affairs, Finance and Development, Global Governance and Georgetown Journal of International Law, among others. 

Setser was an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in 2003, and a fellow from 2007 to 2009. He also has been the director of global research for Roubini Global Economics and a visiting scholar at the International Monetary Fund. He holds a BA from Harvard University, a masters from Sciences-Po and an MA and PhD in international relations from Oxford University.

All Publications


Puerto Rico Debt Legislation Provides Fiscal Oversight Without Overreaching

Author: Brad W. Setser
The Hill

The core of any deal to address Puerto Rico’s imminent debt default long has been clear:  strong fiscal oversight, paired with powerful tools to facilitate a necessary debt restructuring.     But oversight should not overreach, and the new restructuring tools should respect the differences created by existing contracts.   The legislation (PROMESA) that emerged from the House achieves the needed balance; it needs to pass the Senate quickly.

See more in Puerto Rico; Budget, Debt, and Deficits


China's Difficult Choices

CFR's Brad Setser examines U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's statements about the need to rebalance China's economic relations with the United States and says China shouldn't be overly concerned about the risks of U.S. inflation.

See more in China; Monetary Policy

Contingency Planning Memorandum

If the U.S. Dollar Plummets

Author: Brad W. Setser

The scale of financing needed to support the U.S. fiscal deficit—together with the Federal Reserve’s policy of keeping U.S. interest rates low to ward off deflation—has revived concerns about a sudden and sharp depreciation of the U.S. dollar. This Center for Preventive Action Contingency Planning Memorandum by Brad W. Setser examines potential triggers and indicators of such a crisis and posits concrete policy options to limit U.S. vulnerability to the possibility of a plummeting dollar.

See more in United States; Monetary Policy

Other Report

GCC Sovereign Funds: Reversal of Fortune

Authors: Brad W. Setser and Rachel Ziemba

For several years, high oil prices enabled the Gulf Cooperation Council countries to add large sums to their state coffers. Falling oil prices imply that some Gulf countries may need to draw on their depleted funds to cover their import bills. In this Center for Geoeconomic Studies Working Paper, Brad W. Setser and Rachel Ziemba examine the impact of the fall in global equities on the Gulf’s large funds and explore how various oil price scenarios could shape those funds’ future growth.

See more in Regional Security; Middle East and North Africa; Sovereign Wealth Funds


Sovereign Wealth Funds

Author: Brad W. Setser

Brad Setser argues that the best way to address concerns over sovereign wealth are policy shifts in the United States and abroad that would reduce surpluses abroad and U.S. deficits, and bring the U.S. external deficit back to a level that could be more easily be financed by private demand for U.S. assets.

See more in United States; Sovereign Wealth Funds

Council Special Report No. 37

Sovereign Wealth and Sovereign Power

Author: Brad W. Setser

The rise in China's trade surplus, the increase in oil prices, and a slowdown in demand for U.S. assets from private investors abroad has increased the United States' reliance on foreign governments for financing. This report examines whether the United States' ability to secure large quantities of external financing from foreign governments is a reflection of its political power, a constraint on its ability to exercise power, or a combination of the two.

See more in United States; Financial Crises


What's in a Name?

Author: Brad W. Setser
Emerging Markets

China’s sovereign wealth fund looks more like a state agency for managing financial sector investments than a diversified global fund manager, says Brad Setser in a piece that first appeared in the May 2008 issue of Emerging Markets.

See more in Emerging Markets; China

Recent Activity from Follow the Money

CFR Events

Meeting ⁄ New York

China: Impact of the Thirteenth Five-Year Plan

Speakers Gao Xiqing

Cheng Yu-tung Chair Professor, School of Law, Tsinghua University; Former President and Chief Investment Officer, China Investment Corporation

, Karen Harris

Managing Director, Macro Trends Group, Bain & Company

, Brad W. Setser

Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider Tim W. Ferguson

Editor, Forbes Asia

April 19, 2016 7:45 a.m.-9:00 a.m.

7:45 a.m.–8:00 a.m. Breakfast
8:00 a.m.–9:00 a.m. Meeting

April 19, 2016

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting ⁄ New York

Puerto Rico's Debt Crisis

Speakers Cate Long

Principal, Puerto Rico Clearinghouse

, Richard Ravitch

Former Lieutenant Governor, State of New York

, Brad W. Setser

Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; Former Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of the Treasury

Presider Aaron Kuriloff

Staff Reporter, Wall Street Journal

March 8, 2016 12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m.

12:30 p.m.-1:00 p.m. Lunch
1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. Meeting

March 8, 2016

This meeting is on the record.

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Conference Call

Global Markets and the Chinese Economy

Speakers Sebastian Mallaby

Paul A. Volcker Senior Fellow for International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations

, Brad W. Setser

Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider Michael A. Levi

David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

January 6, 2016 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

January 6, 2016

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting ⁄ New York

The Financial Crisis: Where Do We Go From Here?

Speakers Nouriel RoubiniProfessor of Economics, Stern School of Business, New York University; Chairman, RGE Monitor, Brad W. SetserFellow for Geoeconomics, Council on Foreign Relations, Benn SteilDirector of International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider Mortimer B. ZuckermanEditor-in-Chief, U.S. News & World Report
September 25, 2008 7:45–8:00 a.m. - Breakfast Reception
8:00–9:00 a.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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