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Proposal for a New Global Reserve System

March 23rd, 2009 by selise

From Brad Setser: Financial de-globalization, illustrated

Judging from the data on net flows, Bretton Woods II has in some sense come to an end. The world’s central banks are no longer building up reserves and thus are no longer a net source of financing to the US.

Via MoA, from Reuters on March 19: China backs talks on dollar as reserve -Russian source

Russia has proposed the creation of a new reserve currency, to be issued by international financial institutions, among other measures in the text of its proposals to the April G20 summit published last Monday.

Calls for a rethink of the dollar’s status as world’s sole benchmark currency come amid concerns about its long-term value as the U.S. Federal Reserve moved to pump more than a trillion dollars of new cash into the ailing economy late Wednesday.

Russia met representatives of China, India and Brazil ahead of the G20 finance ministers meeting last week, as the big emerging powers seek to up their influence on decisionmaking globally. Their first ever joint communique did not mention a new currency but the source said the issue was discussed.

"They (China) did not formally put forward their position for the G20 summit but unofficially they had distributed their paper regarding the same ideas (the need for the new currency)," the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

From The Commission of Experts of the President of the UN General Assembly on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System draft recommendations (March 20):

A New Global Reserve System

The global imbalances which played an important role in this crisis can only be addressed if there is a better way of dealing with international economic risks facing countries than the current system of accumulating international reserves. Indeed, the magnitude of this crisis and the inadequacy of international responses may motivate even further accumulations. Inappropriate responses by some international economic institutions in previous economic crises have contributed to the problem, making reforms of the kind described here all the more essential. To resolve this problem a new Global Reserve System—what may be viewed as a greatly expanded SDR, with regular or cyclically adjusted emissions calibrated to the size of reserve accumulations—could contribute to global stability, economic strength, and global equity. Currently, poor countries are lending to the rich reserve countries at low interest rates. The dangers of a single-country reserve system have long been recognized, as the accumulation of debt undermines confidence and stability. But a two (or three) country reserve system, to which the world seems to be moving, may be equally unstable. The new Global Reserve System is feasible, non-inflationary, and could be easily implemented, including in ways which mitigate the difficulties caused by asymmetric adjustment between surplus and deficit countries.

The draft recommendations are being presented to the UN General Assembly this week (I think). There are lots of other important recommendations, but reserve currency is a very big deal.

Today, via Calculated Risk, this report from the Financial Times: China calls for new reserve currency

China’s central bank on Monday proposed replacing the US dollar as the international reserve currency with a new global system controlled by the International Monetary Fund.

In an essay posted on the People’s Bank of China’s website, Zhou Xiaochuan, the central bank’s governor, said the goal would be to create a reserve currency “that is disconnected from individual nations and is able to remain stable in the long run, thus removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies”.

Also via Calculated Risk, a link to the speech (english translation): Reform the International Monetary System:

The outbreak of the crisis and its spillover to the entire world reflected the inherent vulnerabilities and systemic risks in the existing international monetary system.

Issuing countries of reserve currencies are constantly confronted with the dilemma between achieving their domestic monetary policy goals and meeting other countries’ demand for reserve currencies. On the one hand – the monetary authorities can not simply focus on domestic goals without carrying out their international responsibilities – on the other hand – they cannot pursue different domestic and international objectives at the same time. They may either fail to adequately meet the demand of a growing global economy for liquidity as they tries to ease inflation pressures at home, or create excess liquidity in the global markets by overly stimulating domestic demand. The Triffin Dilemma, i.e., the issuing countries of reserve currencies can not maintain the value of the reserve currencies while providing liquidity to the world, still exists.

When a national currency is used in pricing primary commodities, trade settlements and is adopted as a reserve currency globally, efforts of the monetary authority issuing such a currency to address its economic imbalances by adjusting exchange rate would be made in vain, as its currency serves as a benchmark for many other currencies. While benefiting from a widely accepted reserve currency, the globalization also suffers from the flaws of such a system. The frequency and increasing intensity of financial crises following the collapse of the Bretton Woods system suggests the costs of such a system to the world may have exceeded its benefits. The price is becoming increasingly higher, not only for the users, but also for the issuers of the reserve currencies. Although crisis may not necessarily be an intended result of the issuing authorities, it is an inevitable outcome of the institutional flaws.

The desirable goal of reforming the international monetary system, therefore, is to create an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations and is able to remain stable in the long run, thus removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies.

It should be a gradual process that yields win-win results for all

The reestablishment of a new and widely accepted reserve currency with a stable valuation benchmark may take a long time. The creation of an international currency unit, based on the Keynesian proposal, is a bold initiative that requires extraordinary political vision and courage. In the short run, the international community, particularly the IMF, should at least recognize and face up to the risks resulting from the existing system, conduct regular monitoring and assessment and issue timely early warnings.

From bernhard at MoA: The U.S. Is Losing Its Reserve Currency Privilege

It will take a few years until a full fledged SDR based system will become functional. The U.S. and the UK will likely fight against this. The Euro based countries will mostly be indifferent. For China this is now a major official policy goal. With BRIC pressing for a new reserve system and support from others medium weight countries like South Korea and South Africa the new initiative has a lot of momentum.

So far the U.S. could borrow cheaply and pay back less in real value than the original loan. That privilege is now going away. The trillions the U.S. currently needs to borrow from abroad will have to be payed back in full. That is a major change in its global power status and will seriously decrease its influence in international policy questions.

I leave interpretation of these events and comments to the reader. The G20 is meeting April 2, we should know more soon

x-posted at oxdown

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