"There is no means of avoiding a final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved."
- Ludwig von Mises

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One G20 Topic Out the Window

In my recent post: Rebalancing Global Trade Before The Whole Thing Topples Into Currency Collapse and War, I brought up US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's suggestion that nations should set caps on severe trade imbalances (tagged at 4% of GDP), whether they are a deficit or a surplus.

Just yesterday, Germany made its view on this topic publicly known:  "Germany will not accept quantitative targets," Merkel said at a news conference before leaving, as "competitiveness of countries must be considered on the issue of exports." link

So far, I have read quite a few articles on this topic this past week, and the general consensus on what the US will do is all over the place.  There is no clear US reaction.  But just late yesterday, from the Wall Street Journal: 
U.S. Expects Leaders to Agree to Curb Trade Imbalances, Says Geithner

"I think it overstates the level of disagreement about challenges that we have ahead," Mr. Geithner said on a military plane in route to the Group of 20 industrial and developing nations' leaders summit in Seoul, South Korea. "We expect we'll see broad support for the type of cooperative framework ministers of finance first agreed to two weeks ago," he said. link
I don't know if Geithner was aware of the German response when he made that comment.  We'll know soon.

Here's the issue:  Global trade imbalances have grown to the point that they can not be sustained.  Deficit countries clearly are consuming more than they produce, and surplus countries are doing the opposite.  However, surplus countries need to understand that QE or stimulus spending ultimately has benefitted their economies, as a good amount of the newly created money is spent on their products.  The system can't continue like this.  Everyone knows this, but no one wants to sacrifice their economy in order to create a fairer, more sustainable global system.  It truly is a race to the bottom.

As for currency devaluations - everyone is in agreement that it is impossible for all currencies to devalue.  Yet no one wants to be the one that keeps their currency strong, as that will impact their ability to export products and pay down debts.

The G20 meeting is underway, but there is no major news story breaking yet.  The only agreement so far that I have seen is the one regarding UN poverty reduction goals.  That's basically it. Unfortunately, I don't see the potential for any breakthrough compromise on global trade and debt imbalances.  The stakes are high, and the tensions leading into the meeting even higher.

Here's a good explanation on the China-US currency war:

No comments: