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Impossible to solve: the currency wars
 

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spudlydoo Views: 1,151
Published: 11 years ago
 

Impossible to solve: the currency wars


Interesting story, and the comments at the end of it are even more interesting, click the link to read the comments.

spud

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/10/11/3034429.htm?site=thedrum


Impossible to solve: the currency wars

By Alan Kohler

Updated 11 hours 40 minutes ago
The IMF nameplate

Finance ministers at the IMF annual meeting agreed to handball the matter of exchange rates to their bosses at the G20 Leaders Summit. (Reuters: Jonathan Ernst)

Naturally the International Monetary Fund (IMF) annual meeting over the weekend failed to reach agreement on the so-called currency wars.

Exchange rate cooperation has joined climate change in the category of issues about which global leaders must appear to be doing something about, while actually doing nothing.

So finance ministers meeting in Washington for the 2010 IMF annual meeting agreed to handball the matter of exchange rates to their bosses, who are meeting at the G20 Leaders Summit in Seoul in a month's time.

Will there be any agreement then on how quickly China's currency, and those of other emerging nations that are trying to maintain exports to America and Europe, should appreciate? Or, to put it another way, the extent to which developed nations' currencies can depreciate against them? Of course not.

As with climate change the important thing is to talk about global cooperation in a positive and optimistic fashion, and to issue communiques along those lines, while doing nothing that would harm domestic employment.

It's hard enough to keep your citizens employed and happy these days without exporting jobs to other countries whose currencies are cheaper than yours and whose carbon remains unpriced.

So the free market must be interfered with, or in the case of climate change not interfered with, in order to preserve domestic harmony at the expense of one's neighbours' domestic harmony.

Australia, meanwhile, has learnt the hard way that currency manipulation is a road to failure and frustration, and in any case with unemployment at 5.1 per cent and falling, obtaining increased purchasing power through exchange rate appreciation isn't so bad.

But there is something deeply fascinating, and more than a little disturbing, about watching four great American firms - Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple - battle it out to control the future of consumption while China fights to make sure it keeps making the things they invent.

Over the weekend, while the IMF was not doing anything about currency wars, it was reported that Amazon is going to take on Google's Android app store with a store of its own. It is just the latest skirmish in an enormously productive war in Silicon Valley between the IT giants for supremacy.

Android is Google's attempt to take on Apple's iPhone, which resulted in Apple becoming the world's second largest corporation. The smartphone revolution has resulted in the world becoming "appified", with some 350,000 apps and more every day, and huge wealth being amassed by the US firms behind it.

The smartphones are all made in China or other emerging counties with low exchange rates. They get the business because workers there don't get paid much and have no purchasing power because of the way their governments artificially hold down the currency.

Those countries - or rather their governments - are also amassing huge wealth by skimming fat margins from the products that are manufactured there and exported back to the countries that invented them.

Apart from the slice that's captured and banked by the elites and cronies in those countries, the money is recycled back into financial manipulation to suppress the currency.

And of course, Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon continue to capture fat margins from the intellectual property that goes into the things that China makes.

All of which might seem pretty nicely balanced and organised, except that US unemployment is 10 per cent and the US government is going under.

Silicon Valley, not Detroit, is the beating heart of America these days but it doesn't employ enough people or pay enough taxes to keep its host nation afloat.

So the US dollar has to fall to make those industries more competitive. And the Chinese yuan falls with it because the Communist Party government has enough cash to make sure that it does.

Will the G20 leaders be able to sort their way through this stuff next month and come up with a solution to the currency wars? Unlikely.

Alan Kohler is publisher of Business Spectator and Eureka Report, as well as host of Inside Business and finance presenter on ABC News. This article first appeared in Business Spectator.
 

 
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