This past weekend, the G-7 finance ministers and IMF (International Monetary Fund) both met in Washington.
As usual, taxpayers wasted a great deal of money getting all of these guys together because they ended the meetings with no more direction than when they started.
The most some of them could agree upon was that the IMF needed to act as a “currency cop” of sorts among all of the member countries’ currencies to see if anyone was giving themselves a distinct advantage by cheapening their currency.
It’s really hard to get one government to work together and agree on issues, much less seven of them (or even the group of 20 nations).
At this weekend’s meeting, it seemed that everyone played the blame game. Of course, the usual happened too. The U.S. and Europe continued to place pressure upon China to strengthen its currency.
Just to put some numbers to it, the yen has risen against the dollar by 11 percent this year, but China’s yuan has only risen by just under 3 percent at the same time.
If you’re a business in the U.S. and you want to get the greatest value that you can, all things being equal, are you going to buy from Japan or China? China, of course, since your currency goes further in buying goods there instead of in the “more expensive” Japan that has the same goods.
So this gives China a huge edge over Japan that the U.S. is working diligently to stop. However, China is China and that country will value its currency up higher when it gets good and ready. There’s not much that the U.S. is going to do about it . . . or it would have already done it.
There was a time when the U.S. could throw its weight around more. However, that day was long before China got its claws into us by holding so much of our Treasury debt. Since then, China holds more power than one might like to think.
There’s a wise old Bible verse that says “the rich rule over the poor and the debtor is slave to the lender.” Well, in this picture I guess you can figure out who the debtor is (the U.S.) and who the lender is (China).
You see, there are two ways to take over a country. You can go to war (and that’s the costliest and bloodiest way). The other way is you can get them grossly indebted to you. The debtor is always subject to the lender. Truer words have never been spoken. It’s true on an individual level. It’s true on a corporate level (just as Visa and MasterCard . . . or your local bank). And it’s true with nations, too!
So China will continue to do what it wants to, as long as it holds as much of our U.S. Treasury debt as it does.
Also, since the meeting ended with the IMF-member countries coming to no real conclusions, it gave currency traders the green light to stick with the trends that have pressured these countries for months now.
This gives the dollar the green light to fall and it gives emerging market currencies the green light to continue to head higher.
So this currency war is going to get even more interesting in the weeks and months ahead.
By the way, mark your calendars for the upcoming meeting of the G-7 in Seoul, Korea where their central bankers will discuss this issue further. This will take place on Nov. 11-12.
Once again, at what’s being called a “Leaders’ Summit,” we’ll get the chance to see if taxpayers wasted their money on high-end jets and lavish hotel rooms and meals. I guess we’ll see if we’ve got any “real” leaders after all once we see what the outcome of this meeting is.
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