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This is a joint post with Lawrence MacDonald.
Browsing through Wikileaks to try to understand what the fuss was all about, Alan came on an interesting cable (10Beijing367) about African views on possible cooperation between China and Western donors on aid to Africa. According the summary of a cable from the U.S. embassy in Beijing, reporting on the views of African diplomats stationed there:
This piece originally appeared in the Financial Times.
How ironic that the world’s reserve currency issuer (the US) and its long-term rival to that status (China) are competing to nearly debauch their own currencies? America’s behaviour – more effect than intent – takes the form of quantitative easing. China’s takes the form of not letting its currency strengthen (which makes the recent monetary tightening deflationary for others).
But unilateral American action against China cannot be the basis for resolving the currency wars. Effective and legitimate multilateral action to induce Chinese co-operation is necessary. Mobilising a broader coalition of the “affected but as yet unwilling” countries before the upcoming Group of 20 summit in Seoul should be America’s priority.
This article also appeared in the Business Standard.
Back in 1971, the then US Treasury Secretary, John Connolly, told his European counterparts that the dollar was “our currency, but your problem”. Today, it seems that China has returned that favour. Its currency has become a problem for the US. Not just the politics but the intellectual climate has become charged with even Nobel laureate Paul Krugman urging strong trade action against China. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has a damned-if-I-do-damned-if-I-don’t choice facing him in mid-April, when he is required by law to pronounce on whether China is a currency manipulator.
My colleage Arvind Subramanian published an intriguing Op-Ed in the Financial Times this week. In “The Weak Renminbi is Not Just America’s Problem” Arvind notes that the undervalued Chinese currency is a global problem that requires a multilateral response. He then argues persuasively that neither the United States nor the IMF can be expected to persuade China to revalue its currency. Instead, he says, such action should come from the WTO.