The economic and financial order of the world is changing. The Group of 20 met in Pittsburgh last week and clearly showed that it was the international body to contend with rather than the G-7. This past weekend there was the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. On Friday, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who leads the IMF, referred to G-7 as the “late G-7”.
The organizations that deal with world financial and economic issues are broadening their base and becoming more inclusive of nations that are playing a larger and larger role in the world. What is clear, implicitly, if not explicitly, is that the United States is being challenged, not only in terms of its leadership of the world, but also financially in terms of the role that the United States Dollar plays in the world.
The economic leadership of the United States, in pre-conference statements, defended the position of the dollar in the world by “mouthing” their commitment to a strong United States Dollar. Before the weekend meeting, both Mr. Geithner and Mr. Bernanke spoke in support of the dollar: “Top U. S. officials threw their weight behind the dollar Thursday, with the Treasury chief stressing the importance of a strong dollar and the Federal Reserve chief addressing concern about the greenback’s future as a reserve currency.” (Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125440283756156107.html.)
The problem with this is that their assurances were exactly the same as those issued by Treasury Secretaries O’Neill, Snow, and Paulson and that of a Federal Reserve chief with the name of Greenspan. For eight years the Bush (43) administration voiced its support of a strong dollar and the value of the dollar dropped more than 40% against other major currencies!
Geithner, Bernanke, and the Obama administration continue on the defensive as the value of the U. S. Dollar is down both against the Euro by about 11% and against major currencies by about 10% since January 20, 2009.
Given the stance of both the Bush (43) administration and the Obama administration over the past nine years the credibility of U. S. leadership in international circles is not very high.
Although the world community speaks very softly on the issue of the changing nature of international financial and economic cooperation, the talk “off-the-record” is expanding with more call for change surfacing from time-to-time. And, the position of the United States continues to weaken as the government continues to pile up huge deficits which ultimately lead to the further decline in the value of the dollar.
The United States cannot have it both ways. It cannot continue to be fiscally irresponsible and financially powerful.
Another piece of evidence supporting this conclusion is the continuing sale of physical assets in the United States to foreign interests. As the value of the dollar has declined over the past eight years, Sovereign Wealth funds as well as private interests have continued to acquire all or parts of U. S. companies. This move to foreign ownership is not going to cease given the fiscal path the United States is following.
And, it is going to be very difficult and take a good piece of time for the government to change the direction it is heading in. First, the mindset of Washington has to change and there is no evidence that anything of that kind is in the works.
We are in the midst of a major change in how the world is organized. It is not going to happen overnight, but, it is going to happen. The United States will continue to be the most powerful nation in the world, but, its relative position is changing and will continue to change. Furthermore, given these shifts, the United States cannot “get away” with the behavior that it has exhibited in the past. It is going to have to cooperate with others and this includes acting responsibly in terms of its fiscal and monetary policy. Until this happens continue to expect a weak dollar.