The global economy How to stop a currency war

Mr. Mantega of Brazil in late September referred to “currency wars.”

“IN RECENT weeks the world economy has been on a war footing, at least rhetorically. Ever since Brazil’s finance minister, Guido Mantega, declared on September 27th that an “international currency war” had broken out, the global economic debate has been recast in battlefield terms, not just by excitable headline-writers, but by officials themselves. Gone is the fuzzy rhetoric about co-operation to boost global growth. A more combative tone has taken hold (see article). Countries blame each other for distorting global demand, with weapons that range from quantitative easing (printing money to buy bonds) to currency intervention and capital controls. Behind all the smoke and fury, there are in fact three battles. The biggest one is over China’s unwillingness to allow the yuan to rise more quickly. American and European officials have sounded tougher about the “damaging dynamic” caused by China’s undervalued currency. Last month the House of Representatives passed a law allowing firms to seek tariff protection against countries with undervalued currencies, with a huge bipartisan majority. China’s “unfair” trade practices have become a hot topic in the mid-term elections. A second flashpoint is the rich world’s monetary policy, particularly the prospect that central banks may soon restart printing money to buy government bonds. The dollar has fallen as financial markets expect the Federal Reserve to act fastest and most boldly. The euro has soared as officials at the European Central Bank show least enthusiasm for such a shift. In China’s eyes (and, sotto voce, those of many other emerging-market governments), quantitative easing creates a gross distortion in the world economy as investors rush elsewhere, especially into emerging economies, in search of higher yields. A third area of contention comes from how the developing countries respond to these capital flows. Rather than let their exchange rates soar, many governments have intervened to buy foreign currency, or imposed taxes on foreign capital inflows. Brazil recently doubled a tax on foreign purchases of its domestic debt. This week Thailand announced a new 15% withholding tax for foreign investors in its bonds.”

This is part of my survey of the 30 best articles from The Economist over the past two years to gain insight into whether Brazilian attitudes towards America have declined, and global attitudes towards Brazil — comments welcome!

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About Janar Wasito

Janar Wasito is the manager of Magis Capital in San Diego, CA. He is a graduate of Harvard and Stanford Law School, and a former Marine Officer.
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