The US will "lose" a currency war
By Scott Sumner
This claim caught my eye:
If U.S. President Donald Trump is unable to bring China to submission with tariffs, it’s possible and “highly likely” his administration would launch a currency war, experts tell Yahoo Finance.
Having already placed tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods exported to the U.S. and threatening to add tariffs to at least $400 billion more, some currency analysts believe Trump could move to devalue the dollar in a bid to further punish China and help U.S. companies gain an edge.
“As this lingers on and we keep increasing the level of tariffs where we get to a point where it really escalates I think it’s highly likely that the U.S. Treasury would then move to devalue the dollar and use it as a tool in this war,” said Keith Bliss, executive director of DriveWealth in New York. . . .
J.P. Morgan Chief Economist Michael Feroli said that while it’s not his base case, he and his team “cannot rule out a turn toward a more interventionist currency policy, particularly since the current Administration has, at times, hinted at a preference for dollar weakness or objected to perceived Chinese currency manipulation.”
I’m not sure if the administration realizes this, but they would lose any currency war with China. That’s because Xi Jinping can easily reduce the value of the Chinese yuan, while the Treasury has relatively little control over the value of the US dollar. Any attempt to reduce the value of the dollar will be mostly offset by the Fed, in an attempt to keep inflation close to 2%.
I use scare quotes in the title of this post because losing a currency war might actually be good for the US. It’s a currency war victory (such as in the early 1970s with Nixon and Burns) that we should fear.
PS. Off topic, but Turkish leader Erdogan went on an infrastructure building spree with borrowed money and encouraged the central bank to hold interest rates below the Wicksellian equilibrium level. Quiz for my readers: What other major world leader has tried (but thus far failed) to get his government to go down that road?