Giant on the move
By Scott Boyd
The views expressed are his own.
As news broke this month suggesting it was more likely than ever that Greece was headed for default, China extended an offer of assistance that beleaguered European governments may find difficult to refuse. Premier Wen Jiabao announced that China was willing to increase its holdings of European sovereign debt at a time when several Eurozone countries are struggling to raise capital.
In return, China seeks little–simply an assurance that profligate governments promise to get their financial affairs in order, and perhaps some other small favor that, in the words of Premier Wen Jiabao, “would reflect our friendship.” The Premier even suggested that a good way to demonstrate this new-found goodwill would be to support China’s bid to be reclassified as a “market economy” by the World Trade Organization.
Currently, anti-dumping tariffs are applied against products shipped from China that are deemed to be sold at below the true market cost. This is an attempt to counter the subsidies and other incentives the Chinese government provides to many manufacturers to ensure their competitiveness; a change in designation would remove most of these tariffs.
While lower costs may be good news for consumers, for European manufacturers, it could prove disastrous. Disadvantaging European manufacturers already facing weak domestic demand could lead to wider job losses and a further slowing of the economy. Eurozone officials would be well advised to consider carefully the potential impact on domestic manufacturers before agreeing to easing China’s access to the European markets.
Reuters's top news and innovation teams have put together a web site on the yuan and the debate over its revaluation. Particularly worth a look after the weekend's statement by China that it would allow more flexibility in its currency exchange. You can access it here, but it looks like this:
from Sebastian Tong:
The growing acrimony in the international debate over China's currency policy has led some to warn that Beijing could dig in its heels if pushed to hard to let its yuan rise.
But Barclays Capital says Beijing could let its currency strengthen as early as next month, notwithstanding its public resolve against Washington's threat to label it as a currency manipulator.
If current trends continue, China might swing to a trade deficit
in the not-too-distant future. Given that China has enjoyed more
than a decade of strong exports, this may sound a bit far-fetched.
But even if it happens, this would not necessarily be something for
the world to worry about.
Some economists have recently sounded alarm bells about the
possibility of a Chinese trade deficit. They argue that if the
Chinese current account surplus shrinks, it would leave Beijing
with less spare cash to buy U.S. Treasury bonds. Then who would
fund the U.S. budget deficit -- and, by implication, U.S.
Is latte at Starbucks in China overpriced or is the local currency, the yuan, unexpectedly overvalued? The former is certainly more plausible, but it might be equally true that the yuan, if not overvalued, is at least not as undervalued as other measures suggest.
This conclusion would come from my proposed Grande Latte index, the caffeinated equivalent of The Economist’s Big Mac index. The Grande Latte index, like its burger brother, is a light-hearted attempt to find a basket of goods that can be compared across countries to assess purchasing power parity (PPP) and, by extension, fair currency value. There are serious flaws, but I will save these for, ahem, the bottom of this blog.