Before I explain what rose more than a few eyebrows, lemme give you a short background of the ongoing conflict between the two superpowers.
Over the past year, U.S. lawmakers have accused China of being currency manipulators, saying that the Chinese have been keeping the Yuan from appreciating in order to stimulate export growth. In addition, U.S. officials have also been bringing up the topic of trade imbalances, citing China’s large trade surpluses.
Naturally, the Chinese haven’t been taking this too well. China, as well as other emerging nations, has been raising concerns about the weakness of the dollar and its impact on their own economies. Finance ministers from these nations are worried that investors will move their funds away from dollar-denominated asset and towards higher yielding investments. They fear that this will cause massive capital inflows and could spark asset bubbles to form.
However, judging by recent developments, those who had expected to see a no-holds-barred clash in the upcoming G-20 meetings may be disappointed. In the past few days, world leaders have spoken up, and it seems like they’re getting along just fine! We’re all in this together, dudes!
China, for one, showed signs of being more open to agreement in the recently-held Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Vice Finance Minister Wang Jun said that the Fed’s 600 billion USD bond-buying program could give global growth a much-needed boost.
Likewise, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner spoke on behalf of his country and said that current-account targets aren’t something desirable. In doing so, the U.S., in effect, hopped on the bandwagon and joined the likes of Germany, Japan, and China, who are all opposed to setting current-account targets.
But to be honest, even with the “tone-softening” and all these “take-backs” we’ve been getting from the world’s largest economies, I can’t help but feel that the upcoming G20 summit will have the same effect as other meetings in the past: nothing.
How can Geithner claim that China is a currency manipulator when the U.S. is printing money out of thin air to stimulate its economy? While it could admittedly support the domestic economy in the long run, it could also cause the dollar to fall in value versus other currencies – something that export-oriented nations are very much against.
With the Fed’s bigger-than-expected QE2 program launched, it’s going to be hard for the U.S. to push Asian and South American nations to stop “manipulating” their currencies. In fact, one wrong word here or there might just spark another round of conflict.
For now, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. Who knows, a surprise might be lurking just around the corner…