The war has begun that I voiced concern about early last month. It appears that the first salvos have been fired and the battle lines are being drawn. I suspect some may raise their eyebrows when I say that this is the most dangerous war the world has ever dealt with in its history. What is so dangerous about this war?
First, it is a war that very few people understand. Politicians have no clue and the average person cannot make the connection between this war and their personal lives. That is until the war swings into full combat mode. Then they will understand too late. Let’s just say when you have to take a truck load of money to the grocery store to buy a loaf of bread everyone will understand then. What we really need now is intervention to prevent this war from escalating. This is the job for international economic agencies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the G20, or the World Bank to step in!
Well…. According to the Telegraph today, it looks like we have had our first opportunity to see these diligent and social responsible agencies in action on the war front.
The IMF policy committee, which has been struggling to agree a consensus on easing currency tensions among key economies including China and the US, said the organisation should instead keep the issue under watch. Pressure has been piling on China to speed up the pace of economic reform by dropping its policy of using a weak currency and reserve accumulation to boost exports. Finance ministers at the 187-strong lending agency have accused China of imperiling the global recovery by fostering the imbalances that are preventing deficit countries like the US and UK from returning to economic health.
IMF officials argue that if China let its currency appreciate, Chinese imports would become more expensive, potentially sparking demand for US goods. The US is facing crippling levels of unemployment despite returning to growth, which has raised fears of a “jobless recovery” that could trigger political and social unrest.
European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet last night pointedly reminded China of its commitment last June to “engage in exchange rate flexibility”, adding: “There is no need for [emerging economies] to continue to accumulate immense amount of reserve assets.”
Earlier, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told the committee that the IMF had to speak more forcefully about how countries manage their currencies. He called on the IMF to “increase the candour of its surveillance” and said that “meaningful reform of IMF surveillance is a core challenge of the institution”.
Despite calls for tougher action, the IMF could only pledge to “work towards a more balanced pattern of global growth, recognising the responsibilities of deficit and surplus countries”.
Mr Trichet added that while “we have a consensus on imbalances, the problem is implementation – as always”. China on Friday hit back at calls for it to let the currency rise, saying it rejected such “shock therapy” but is committed to a more “flexible” currency regime.
George Soros, the respected hedge fund manager, also weighed into the debate. Speaking in London, he said a global “currency war” pitting China versus the rest of the world could lead to the collapse of the world economy. Mr Soros said the China had created a “lopsided currency” system and suggested it allow the yuan to appreciate by 10pc a year – far more than the Chinese will contemplate.
The IMF Committee’s chairman Youssef Boutros-Ghali said at the conclusion of talks at the agency’s Washington headquarters that “frictions” did exist. “These are being addressed. We have come to the conclusion that the IMF is the place to deal with these issues,” he said.
IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, when asked about the failure to come up with a stronger statement, said that “there is only one obstacle, and that is an agreement of the members”, before adding that the line was a joke. He added that “I don’t believe action can be done in a way other than in a co-operative way.”
Recent IMF figures showed Beijing had currency reserves of $2.447 trillion, the largest in the world and nearly 30pc of the global total.
So maybe bankers will step in and save the day. Well… maybe not. Consider this:
The Institute of International Finance, a group that represents 420 of the world’s largest banks and finance houses, has issued yet another call for a one-world global currency, Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert reports.
“A core group of the world’s leading economies need to come together and hammer out an understanding,” Charles Dallara, the Institute of International Finance’s managing director, told the Financial Times. An IIF policy letter authored by Dallara and dated Oct. 4 made clear that global currency coordination was needed, in the group’s view, to prevent a looming currency war.
“The narrowly focused unilateral and bilateral policy actions seen in recent months – including many proposed and actual measures on trade, currency intervention and monetary policy – have contributed to worsening underlying macroeconomic imbalances,” Dallara wrote. “They have also led to growing protectionist pressures as countries scramble for export markets as a source of growth.”
Dallard encouraged a return to the G-20 commitment to utilize International Monetary Fund special drawing rights to create an international one-world currency alternative to the U.S. dollar as a new standard of foreign-exchange reserves.
Likewise, a July United Nations report called for the replacement of the dollar as the standard for holding foreign-exchange reserves in international trade with a new one-world currency issued by the International Monetary Fund.
The 176-page report, titled “United Nations World Economic and Social Survey 2010,” was issued at a high-level meeting of the U.N. Economic and Social Council and published in its entirety on the U.N. website.
What is obvious is that no agency or governmental body in the world, no matter its size or scope has either the courage or the power to stop the escalation. The major governments involved, US, EU, China, and India cannot muster the political strength within their respective regions to implement the policies that must be put in place to correct the existing imbalances.
I am certain that if the general public understood that this is a war in which every home, every family on the planet will be victims and causalities of the war, maybe we can rally our weak-kneed and greedy politicians and bankers to implement the policies now to stop this insane war. You know, a Godfather like discussion. An offer they can’t refuse.