Is Euro Ready To Replace US Dollar As Reserve Currency?

There are mounting global concerns about sharp decline in the value of US dollar against the euro and other major world currencies. Not only has it fueled inflation with higher prices of basic commodities such as food grains, oil and metals but it has also diminished the value of the reserves held in dollars by the vast majority of central banks around the world. These issues are giving to rise to a discussion of how long can the US dollar remain as the currency of choice for central bankers. To understand this discussion, let's look at the history of reserve currencies in the past and the current situation with global trade.

When the 20th century began, the U.S. was already the world's biggest economy, but the British pound still accounted for nearly two-thirds of official foreign-exchange reserves held by the world's central banks. The dollar didn't become the dominant currency until after World War II. Even then, some commodities still traded in pounds: The London sugar market didn't jettison sterling for a dollar-denominated trading contract until around 1980. The history lesson here is that, while the reserve and trade currencies can and do change, it takes a significant re-architecture of the world economy and trade and significant amount of time for it to happen. Nearly two-thirds of the world's central-bank reserves remain denominated in dollars, according to data from the International Monetary Fund, despite widespread fears of a mass exodus from the currency. The euro accounts for about a quarter -- up from 18% when it was introduced in 1999, but less than its predecessor currencies' share in 1995. Because the U.S. is such a huge trading partner for so many countries, the reserve buildup isn't easily unwound.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the dollar is also deeply entrenched in world trade. Businesses lower their transaction costs by dealing in a common currency. More than 80% of exports from Indonesia, Thailand and Pakistan are invoiced in dollars, for instance, according to the latest figures available in research by the European Central Bank, although less than a quarter of their exports go to the U.S.

While many nations want to change at least part of their reserve holdings from US dollars to euros, they know if they sell a significant share of their dollar reserves, it would weaken the dollar's value. That would potentially hurt their own trade competitiveness, and push down the value of their remaining dollar reserves. If they keep the dollars, a buildup of unwanted assets would only mount.
"There is no alternative to the dollar as a trading currency in Asia," Andy Xie, a Hong Kong-based economist told the Wall Street Journal. "Eventually, the renminbi [yuan] will replace the dollar in Asia, perhaps in our lifetime. But it will take at least 30 to 40 years."

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Robert Fisk in the Independent says there is a move afoot to change the price of oil from US dollar:

In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.

Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean that oil will no longer be priced in dollars.

The plans, confirmed to The Independent by both Gulf Arab and Chinese banking sources in Hong Kong, may help to explain the sudden rise in gold prices, but it also augurs an extraordinary transition from dollar markets within nine years.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a report of a Swiss journalist forecasting doomsday for US dollar:

The United States greenback has become the biggest speculative bubble in history and will soon go the way of the dinosaurs, warns Swiss financial journalist Myret Zaki.

In her latest book, Zaki says that the euro’s future is much brighter and that attacks against the currency are just a smokescreen aimed at hiding the collapse of the American economy.

“The collapse of the American dollar… is inevitable. The world’s biggest economy is nothing but an illusion. To produce $14,000 billion of nation income, the United States has created over $50,000 billion of debt that costs it $4,000 billion in interest payments each year.”

There can be little doubt about Myret Zaki’s opinion of the American dollar and economy, which she considers technically bankrupt, an opinion she backs up in her new book, La fin du dollar (The end of the dollar).

Over the past few years, she has become one of Switzerland’s best known business journalists, with a book about the UBS debacle in the US and another about tax evasion.

swissinfo.ch: You say in your book that the end of the dollar will be the major event of the 21st century. Aren’t you painting the situation more catastrophic than it really is?

Myret Zaki: I realise that predicting such a huge event when there are no tangible warning signs of a violent crisis may seem all doom and gloom. But I reached those conclusions based on extremely rational and factual criteria.

More and more American authors believe that their country’s monetary policy will lead to such a situation. It is simply impossible that it will happen any other way.

swissinfo.ch: It’s not the first time the end of the dollar has been foreseen. What makes the situation different in 2011?

M.Z.: It’s true that it has been announced since the 1970s. But never have so many different factors come together, letting us fear the worst. American debt has reached a record level, the dollar is at a historic low against the Swiss franc and most new American bond issues are being bought by the US Federal Reserve. Other central banks have also been criticising the US, creating a hostile front against American monetary policy.

swissinfo.ch: Besides the end of the dollar, you are also announcing the end of the US as an economic superpower. Isn’t America simply too big to fail?

M.Z.: Everybody has an interest in the US economy staying afloat, so everyone is in denial for the time being. But it won’t last forever. No one will be able to save the Americans. They will have to carry the burden of their bankruptcy alone.

They can expect a very long period of austerity, which has already begun. Forty-five million Americans have already lost their homes, 20 per cent of the population is out of the economic system and is not spending, while a third of states are bankrupt. No-one is investing their money in the country any more. Everything is built on debt.
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swissinfo.ch: What will happen if the dollar collapses as predicted?

M.Z.: Europe is the planet’s biggest economic power and it has a strong reference currency. Unlike the United States, it is also expanding. In Asia, the Chinese yuan will become the reference and China is Europe’s biggest ally.

It has an interest in supporting a strong euro so it can diversify its investments. China also needs an ally within the World Trade Organization and the G20 so it can avoid a re-evaluation of its currency. Today, Europe and China are two gravitational forces that are attracting two former US allies, Britain and Japan....
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan and China on Friday signed a currency swap arrangement to promote bilateral trade and investment and strengthen financial cooperation, according to an Express Tribune report:

State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and People’s Bank of China (PBC) signed the currency swap arrangement in Islamabad, announced the central bank. The agreement was signed by SBP Governor Yaseen Anwar and PBC Deputy Governor DU Jinfu.

This is the second currency swap agreement that the government has signed with any country. Earlier, Pakistan and Turkey inked a similar arrangement with an option to trade in each other’s currencies equivalent to $1 billion.

An official handout said the bilateral currency swap arrangement has been concluded in 10 billion Chinese yuan and 140 billion Pakistani rupees. The programme will expire in three years, but can be extended with mutual consent. Pakistani importers can pay for Chinese goods in local currency.

“We expect that bilateral trade and investment will grow between Pakistan and China as a result of this agreement, further augmenting economic ties between the two countries,” it added. This agreement will contribute significantly to further strengthening close and special relationship between the two countries.

The currency swap agreement will give a positive signal to the market on availability of the other country’s currency on the onshore market, said the central bank, adding as a result it will promote bilateral trade denominated in Chinese yuan and Pakistani rupee.

Arrangement raises questions

However, industry insiders suspect that China will later convert the arrangement into a loan as it has expressed little interest in trading in Pakistani currency. On the loan, it can charge mark-up at a rate more than the Shanghai interbank market rate.

The insiders said when Pakistan proposed Beijing to sign the currency swap agreement China refused to deal in Pakistani currency. They said Pakistan had also proposed China to buy its treasury bills with the swap money, but Beijing refused.

They said Pakistani importers may still have to pay in Chinese currency despite signing of the swap arrangement.

Despite repeated attempts, State Bank officials were not available for comment.

Total volume of bilateral trade was $7.4 billion last year, tilted in favour of China. Pakistan’s exports to China stood at $1.6 billion compared to imports worth $5.8 billion, showing a deficit of $4.2 billion, said the commerce ministry.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/311206/pakistan-china-sign-currency-swap-agreement/
Riaz Haq said…
Here's Washington on Pak-China currency swap deal:

China announced a currency swap with Pakistan on Saturday in a new step to gradually expand use of its tightly controlled yuan abroad.

Beijing has begun allowing limited use of yuan in trade with Hong Kong and Southeast Asia in a move that could help to boost exports. It has signed swap currency deals with central banks in Thailand, Argentina and some other countries.

The Chinese central bank said it agreed Friday with its Pakistani counterpart to swap 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) for 140 billion Pakistani rupees. It said the money would promote investment and trade but gave no details of how it would be used.

Such agreements give central banks access to each other’s currency but commercial banks still need to create systems to issue letters of credit and handle other transactions in those currencies before companies can use them.

The United States and other trading partners complain Beijing’s controls on the yuan keep it undervalued, giving its exporters an unfair price advantage and hurting foreign competitors at a time when the global economy is struggling.

Some American lawmakers are demanding punitive tariffs on Chinese goods if Beijing fails to move more quickly in easing its controls.

Expanded use of the yuan abroad would reduce costs for Chinese traders who do most of their business in dollars and euros. It also might increase the appeal of Chinese goods for foreign buyers who have yuan to spend.

Beijing also has created a market for yuan-denominated bonds in Hong Kong. It said last week that some foreign investors who obtain yuan abroad would be allowed to invest them in China’s stock markets.

The Chinese central bank announced a currency swap agreement with Thailand this week and has carried out swaps with Argentina and Kazakhstan. It has pledged to lend yuan to some other countries’ central banks in case of emergencies.

Chinese leaders say they plan eventually to allow the yuan to trade freely abroad but analysts say it might be decades before that is completed.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/china-announces-currency-swap-with-pakistan-in-new-move-to-expand-yuans-use-abroad/2011/12/23/gIQAJ8HlEP_story.html
Riaz Haq said…
The UK Treasury has announced plans to make London the leading international centre for trading China's currency, the yuan, also known as the renminbi, according to BBC:

"London is perfectly placed to act as a gateway for Asian banking and investment in Europe," said UK Chancellor George Osborne.

Bankers say the plans could bring billions of pounds into the City.

China has been gradually relaxing strict controls on the value of its currency and on flows of capital.

Mr Osborne, who arrived in Hong Kong on Monday at the start of a visit to Asia, said he would be holding talks "on establishing London as the new hub for the renminbi market as a complement to Hong Kong".

The City, he said, as the world's largest centre for foreign exchange, was "uniquely placed to assist in the development of this exciting market".
Major currency

According to Treasury officials, the new partnership with Hong Kong puts London in pole position to be the major centre for trading the Chinese currency outside China and Hong Kong.

An intergovernmental agreement that London and Hong Kong would work together on yuan trading was reached last summer.

Following the relaxation of strict state controls, the yuan is set to become a major, globally-traded currency, in keeping with China's status as the world's second biggest economy.

A recent report by the Chatham House think tank forecast that trade transactions settled in the currency would reach around a trillion dollars (£650bn) by 2020.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16571765
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an Asia Times piece on the importance of GCC Arabs to US power and US dollar:

There's no way to understand the larger-than-life United States-Iran psychodrama, the Western push for regime change in both Syria and Iran, and the trials and tribulations of the Arab Spring(s) - now mired in perpetual winter - without a close look at the fatal attraction between Washington and the GCC. [1]

GCC stands for Gulf Cooperation Council, the club of six wealthy Persian Gulf monarchies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates - UAE), founded in 1981 and which in no time configured as the prime strategic US backyard for the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, for the long-drawn battle in the New Great Game in Eurasia, and also as the headquarters for "containing" Iran.

The US Fifth Fleet is stationed in Bahrain and Central Command's forward headquarters is based in Qatar; Centcom polices no less than 27 countries from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia - what the Pentagon until recently defined as "the arc of instability". In sum: the GCC is like a US aircraft carrier in the Gulf magnified to Star Trek proportions.

I prefer to refer to the GCC as the Gulf Counter-revolution Club - due to its sterling performance in suppressing democracy in the Arab world, even before Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia over a year ago.

Cueing to Orson Welles in Citizen Kane, the Rosebud inside the GCC is that the House of Saud sells its oil only in US dollars - thus the pre-eminence of the petrodollar - and in exchange benefits from massive, unconditional US military and political support. Moreover the Saudis prevent the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) - after all they're the world's largest oil producer - to price and sell oil in a basket of currencies. These rivers of petrodollars then flow into US equities and Treasury bonds.

For decades virtually the whole planet has been held hostage to this fatal attraction. Until now.

Gimme all your toys
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It's true that whoever dominates the GCC - with weapons and political support - projects power globally. The GCC has been absolutely key for US hegemony within what Immanuel Wallerstein defines as the world system.

Yet let's take a look at the numbers. Since last year Saudi Arabia is exporting more oil to China than to the US. This is part of an inexorable process of GCC energy and commodity exports moving to Asia.

By next year foreign assets held by the GCC could reach $3.8 trillion with oil at $70 a barrel. With all that non-stop "tension" in the Persian Gulf, there's no reason to believe oil will be below $100 in the foreseeable future. In this case GCC foreign assets could reach a staggering $5.7 trillion - that's 160% more than in pre-crisis 2008, and over $1 trillion more than China's foreign assets.

At the same time, China will be increasingly doing more business with the GCC. The GCC is increasingly importing more from Asia - although the top source of imports is still the European Union. Meanwhile, US-GCC trade is dropping. By 2025, China will be importing three times more oil from the GCC than the US. No wonder the House of Saud - to put it mildly - is terribly excited about Beijing.

So for the moment we have the pre-eminence of NATOGCC military, and USGCC geopolitically. But sooner rather than later Beijing may approach the House of Saud and quietly whisper, "Why don't you sell me your oil in yuan?" Just like China buying Iranian oil and gas with yuan. Petroyuan, anyone? Now that's an entirely new Star Trek.


http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NA20Ak02.html
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a NY Times blog post on BRICS summit in Delhi:

The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa announced on Thursday that they would investigate establishing a system that would allow them to bypass the dollar and other global currencies when trading among themselves.

The leaders of the BRICS group of nations also announced that they would explore setting up an alternative to the IMF and the World Bank that would loan to developing countries and bypass the U.S.-European axis of power that has dominated global economic affairs since World War II.

In a story on the stakes and the obstacles before the BRICS nations, our colleague Jim Yardley explained that the group had not accomplished very much before this, their fourth summit meeting, in New Delhi. But Jim wrote that they were expected to come away with at least one concrete product this time:

They are expected to announce agreements that would enable the nations to extend each other credit in local currencies while conducting trade, sidestepping the dollar, a substantive move if not yet the kind of game-changing action once expected from BRICS.

But that raises the questions:

Do you expect the BRICS to change the global game? What is their potential as a bloc or an alliance? Indeed, are they a bloc at all, or just a list of countries whose growing economic might symbolizes the rise of a world where the United States is no longer solely dominant?

The five countries have very different agendas and forms of government. Does this make forming any kind of unified policy or outlook unlikely? Are they really just a smart catchphrase from a Goldman Sachs economist to encapsulate changing global economics, as Walter Ladwig, a visiting fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, argued in the Opinion pages of the IHT?

The French daily Le Figaro believes that “little by little, the BRICS are asserting themselves.” To what end, it does not say.

In its analysis of the summit meeting, the Times of India concentrates on the group’s political statements urging negotiated resolutions of the conflict in Syria and the West’s nuclear standoff with Iran.

Reuters concentrates on the lecturing and hectoring that BRICS leaders delivered to the profligate West, quoting the customary end-of-summit joint declaration: “It is critical for advanced economies to adopt responsible macroeconomic and financial policies, avoid creating excessive global liquidity and undertake structural reforms to lift growth that create jobs.”


http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/29/what-do-you-think-the-brics-can-build/?scp=1&sq=BRICS&st=cse
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Reuters' report on Pakistani central bank buying Chinese government bonds:

Pakistan will join a growing list of central banks that will invest in China's interbank market as the world's second-largest economy opens its capital markets.

The People's Bank of China announced on Monday that it had signed an agreement with the State Bank of Pakistan to help Pakistan invest in its local debt market, without providing details about the size of the investment programme.

China has allowed foreign central banks to invest in its domestic interbank bond market since 2010 as part of efforts to widen investment avenues for foreign yuan asset holders and promote the international use of the Chinese currency.

China and Pakistan signed a three-year currency swap deal worth 10 billion yuan ($1.60 billion) in December 2011 and companies in the two countries are encouraged to accept export and import bills in Chinese yuan.

The central banks of Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and Indonesia are among those who invest in China's bonds onshore.

Besides central banks, China also allows yuan clearing banks in Hong Kong and Macau and foreign banks that help settle cross-boarder trade in yuan to invest in its interbank bond markets.

($1 = 6.2538 Chinese yuan)


http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/10/22/uk-china-pakistan-bonds-idUKBRE89L0A620121022
Riaz Haq said…
China is the biggest trading partner of more nations than the US, reports AP:

In just five years, China has surpassed the United States as a trading partner for much of the world, including U.S. allies such as South Korea and Australia, according to an Associated Press analysis of trade data. As recently as 2006, the U.S. was the larger trading partner for 127 countries, versus just 70 for China. By last year the two had clearly traded places: 124 countries for China, 76 for the U.S.



In the most abrupt global shift of its kind since World War II, the trend is changing the way people live and do business from Africa to Arizona, as farmers plant more soybeans to sell to China and students sign up to learn Mandarin.

The findings show how fast China has ascended to challenge America’s century-old status as the globe’s dominant trader, a change that is gradually translating into political influence. They highlight how pervasive China’s impact has been, spreading from neighboring Asia to Africa and now emerging in Latin America, the traditional U.S. backyard.

Despite China’s now-slowing economy, its share of world output and trade is expected to keep rising, with growth forecast at up to 8 percent a year over the next decade, far above U.S. and European levels. This growth could strengthen the hand of a new generation of just-named Chinese leaders, even as it fuels strain with other nations.
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The United States is still the world’s biggest importer, but China is gaining. It was a bigger market than the United States for 77 countries in 2011, up from 20 in 2000, according to the AP analysis.

The AP is using International Monetary Fund data to measure the importance of trade with China for some 180 countries and track how it changes over time. The analysis divides a nation’s trade with China by its gross domestic product.

The story that emerges is of China’s breakneck rise, rather than of a U.S. decline. In 2002, trade with China was 3 percent of a country’s GDP on average, compared with 8.7 percent with the U.S. But China caught up, and surged ahead in 2008. Last year, trade with China averaged 12.4 percent of GDP for other countries, higher than that with America at any time in the last 30 years.

Of course, not all trade is equal. China’s trade is mostly low-end goods and commodities, while the U.S. competes at the upper end of the market


http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/2012/12/02/impact-china-surpasses-top-global-trader/gwI1PLvAcDPSo90KjJgTUM/story.html

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