Larry Summers on the falling dollar:
How America must handle the falling dollar, by Lawrence Summers, Commentary, Financial Times: ...The dollar’s decline may provoke anxiety but it should not be a surprise... There is nothing very new about a decline in currency of a country running a large current account deficit and whose economy is softening. But in important respects the situation of the dollar is almost without precedent.
The vast majority of the US current account deficit is now being funded by central banks accumulating reserves as they seek to avoid appreciation of their home currencies. While the US dollar is usually viewed as a floating rate currency, substantial and critical parts of the world economy operate with currencies pegged to dollar parities or at least managed with them in mind. ... Some means of engagement must be found with those who have yolked their currencies and so their financial policies to that of the US.
The US has responded in an ad hoc way by carrying on a “strategic dialogue” with China – by far the largest economy with an exchange rate linked to the dollar – backed by congressional threats ... and references to communiqués from the Group of Seven leading industrial nations. In reality the dialogue is anything but strategic. Like so much of American international policy in recent years, it seems to confuse the firm statement of legitimate desire with the serious conduct of diplomacy.
Think of the questions Chinese policymakers must ask themselves. What is the highest US priority – global financial stability or market access for well-connected US firms? Can the US take yes for an answer or is it a certainty that a new president will insist in 18 months on a new set of economic diplomacy accomplishments with China? In which areas, if any, is the US prepared to adjust its policies in response to global interests? Given that the Chinese authorities have presided over nearly double digit annual growth for a generation, do US officials who make assertions about what is in China’s interest have the experience and knowledge of China that should cause their views to be taken seriously? Why is China being singled out? How could China – even if it wished to – act in ways that the US prefers without appearing to yield to international pressure?
Maintaining global financial stability and the role of the dollar requires a more strategic approach – a task that, given the political calendar, is likely to fall to the next US administration.
The G7 process has lost its focus on exchange rate issues ... [and] is something of an anachronism in the current international context. It needs to be radically reinvented, starting with a change in its composition. ... Two principles stand out.
First, any new approach must be premised on the desirability of a strong, integrated global economy that benefits the citizens of all countries, not on the idea that economists or politicians can calculate “fair” exchange rates. The right and potentially effective case for adjustments in the current alignment of exchange rates relies on their unsustainability and the distortions they induce in macroeconomic policies, not on ideas of fairness to workers.
Second, multilateralism is better politics and economics than unilateralism but it must not become an excuse for inertia. Any new group should be as large as necessary and no larger, should meet with some frequency and should include central bankers. It should be analytically informed but everyone should know that key decisions will ultimately be taken by senior officials in the national interest, not by international organisations.
The stakes are high. Well-managed finance cannot on its own make a country stable and prosperous, let alone the world. But history tells us that poorly managed finance foments instability and economic insecurity.
See also: Is the Yuan Really Appreciating?, by pgl