One of the key problems faced by all countries over the past three years has been a lack of consumer demand. Firms face demand from a number of sources and when the domestic economy is struggling and domestic demand is weak, a key source of demand will be from abroad. By this, we are of course referring to exports. However, it was not just one country that plunged into recession: the global economy was affected. So, when one country was suffering from a weak domestic market, it turned to its export market and hence to other countries for demand. However, with these economies also suffering from recession, the export market was unable to offer any significant help. In order to boost exports, governments have tried to make their export markets more competitive and one method is to cut the value of the currency. Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Columbia and Taiwan are just some of the countries using this strategy.
Following these interventions, the Brazilian finance minister has commented that a new trade war has begun. Speaking to a group of industrial leaders in Sao Paulo, Mr. Mantega said:
‘We’re in the midst of an international currency war. This threatens us because it takes away our competitiveness.’
As more and more governments intervene in the currency market in a bid to boost exports, those refraining from intervening will suffer. Furthermore, interest rates throughout the developed world have remained low, as central banks continue their attempts to boost economics. However, this has led vast amounts of money to be transferred into countries, such as Brazil, where there is a better supply of high-yield assets. This has worsened the state of affairs in Brazil, as the Brazilian currency is now thought to be the most heavily over-valued currency in the world. This adversely affects Brazil’s export market and its trade balance. The following articles look at the lastest developments in this new ‘war’.
Currencty ‘war’ warning from Brazil’s finance minister BBC News (28/9/10)
Brazil warns of world currency war Telegraph (28/9/10)
Brazil warns of world currency ‘war’ Associated Press (28/9/10)
Brazil defends exporters in global currency battle Reuters (15/9/10)
Kan defends Japan’s intervention in the currency markets Associated Press (25/9/10)
US and China are still playing currency Kabuki Business Insider, Dian L. Chu (21/9/10)
How to stop a currency war The Economist (14/10/10)
What’s the currency war about? BBC News, Laurence Knight (23/10/10)
Exchange rate data
Exchange rate X-rates.com
Statistical Interactive Database – interest and exchange rates data Bank of England
Currencies BBC News
Currency converter Yahoo Finance
- Demand for a firm’s products comes from many sources. What are they? Illustrate this on a diagram.
- Why is a weak currency good for the export market?
- How will a country’s trade balance be affected by the value of its currency?
- Explain the process by which investors putting money into high-yield assets in countries like Brazil leads to currency appreciation.
- What are the options open to a government if it wants to devalue its currency? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each method?