Sunday, March 28, 2010

Alternative Explanations for the US v. China currency confrontation

Could US bluster about the Chinese currency overvaluation be rooted in the frustrations of US multinationals? " A growing number of U.S. companies feel unwelcome in China, according to
a new survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China...Negative
sentiment among Amcham's members, which traditionally have been a ...strong
lobby in Washington arguing for more engagement with China, adds to
wider risks in U.S.-China relations...." (quote is from the Wall Street Journal). Mike Whitney explains "
The multinationals see a "deteriorating investment environment" because of "rules on indigenous innovation." In other words, China's leaders want to strengthen their own industries and keep more of the profits for themselves (which is what governments are supposed to do.) The proposed rules will affect "dozens of products sold by foreign companies, including servers, mobile base stations, security and finance software, and wind-power generators." So, naturally, the multinationals are angry."

And what if China devalues, rather than revalues, the remimbi? Again, from Whitney: "China's economy is dangerously off-kilter and headed for a reckoning. The current rate of investment is over 50 per cent and rising. That's clearly unsustainable. By focusing on real estate and exports, China has failed to create strong domestic demand; personal consumption needs to increase and investment needs to slow. But that will take time, and now the situation is dire. If exports collapse because of a stronger currency, China might do "the unthinkable" (as Auerback suggests) and devalue the remnimbi which would further widen the trade deficits, exacerbate global imbalances, and increase the present rate of inflation. That would force Obama to step in and take decisive action whether he wants to or not. Perhaps a full-blown trade war is not so far fetched, after all."

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