Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Trade Wars & Currencies

Michael Pettis worries about a trade war between surplus countries and deficit countries. The basis of the war is two fold.

First, the US Dollar is the unofficial world currency. In that role, it has to function as a store of value and a facilitator of international economic growth. As such the US has to bear the responsibilities. This constrains the US Government. 

Second, we can alter or manage other global currencies and its value in US Dollar terms. This comes at a significant costs but it is doable. The most popular method is through intervention by central banks. Central banks buy or sell their US Dollar holding to keep the exchange rates in check.

Problems for US
The impossible trinity applies to the dollar's case in a different manner. US government has open capital system and flexible exchange rate so technically this should be a non-issue. But there is a problem for US. The objective for managing the trinity is to manage the economy and the trinity represents tools to that effect. In the case of the current trade war with US and surplus countries, these tools contradict each other and render US policies useless. The constraints will either cause US to bailout the world or there has to be a restructuring of the global currency system.

A two-level currency system
It is clear that US dollar cannot and should not serve as a global and national currency. A rational solution that maintains the sovereign independence while serving global trade and growth needs comes from a two-level currency system I proposed earlier.

Two-level currency system - Rahul Deodhar

PS: This is the 200th post on this blog. I started the blog in 2004 with focus on companies, innovation, investments and ideas about future. Over past few years the focus has been exclusively on the crisis and its solutions. It is read by 20 people every day. Thank you for being by co-travelers.