From egemonic currency to monetary hegemony

The question is very simple: everything will go on as he went forward in recent decades ( growth based on imbalances and decrease during periods of correction of these imbalances ) or we are really at the beginning of a change?

Obviously no one has an answer. However, many observers agree with the belief that this change, if it arrives, will come trough the reform of the international monetary and financial system.

We could summarize them with another question: are we doomed to live in a monetary system where a dominant currency (the pound yesterday, today the dollar) pulls the ranks of the Great Game, or are we moving towards a system where monetary rules guide the world?

In other words: we will live again under a dominant currency or a monetary hegemony?

Do not think that an idle question. At Bretton Woods’s time, the alternative was between the U.S. dollar and the bancor Keynesian, a unit of account managed by a kind of international central bank, designed to measure and compensate for the international trade. A coin that is not planned to be a store of value, but a currency similar to the imaginary coin of the Middle Ages.

The Keynes’s was shelved and was chosen the White plan, the U.S. negotiator, which in fact confirmed the logic of the dominant currency. So the dollar as a medium of exchange, unit of account and store of value.

Since then the world has changed a lot, but not so much. It ‘changed because the euro, which even before a currency is a political project . But it’s difficult to reverse habits.

To give you an idea of ​​how much weight the legacy of the dominant currency (the dollar) on the present, we can read an article written recently by the ECB in its annual report on the international role of the euro entitled “History, gravity and international finance “, where it is estimated that about 15% of the investment choices of those who buy bonds Americans today can be explained by decisions and motivations older than 70 years. In other words: the hegemony of the dollar still depends of its historical heritage. And this explains his miraculous performance .

It ‘s the history that, writes the ECB, “plays a role in geography of international finance”.

This does not mean that these processes are not subject to change. The ECB itself in its report known as the debate on the evolution of the monetary system toward a multipolar structure based primarily on the dollar, euro and the Chinese renminbi tomorrow , could be a landing even desirable. A tripolar system, writes the ECB, would be able to handle payments imbalances more effectively than a hegemonic “relieving the Triffin dilemma “.

But there is another way to arrive at a substantial reform of the international monetary and financial system. What does not pass by the states – the much desired and never hinged New Bretton Woods – but by supranational entities, in homage to another trilemma, that of Rodrik .

The euro model, in short.

The euro, indeed, don’t wants to be a dominant currency but a government practice.

The data of the European Central Bank, which every year counts the amount of euro in central banks’s reserves shows that this share is still fluctuates between 20 and 25%. The share of the euro in the debt market, and the euro-denominated bonds to total debt issued in the world has increased from 26.5% in 1999 to 39.4 in 2006, and then retrace because of the crisis. the the Euro is important, but clearly not hegemonic.

Finally, the share of the euro used in international trade remains very pronounced within the EU (62.5% at the end of 2011) and also in non-EU countries. A study of the WTO shows that the total volume of payments in euro is close to 40% percent, compared with a market share of just over 25%. More then payments in dollars. But the dollar remains the protagonist in the oil trade. Another historical legacy, of course.

In short, the euro currency, as store of value, unit of account and medium of exchange, can aspire to a decent second place in the world, but certainly not to undermine the dollar’s hegemony.

Also because it is not the ambition of those who built the euro.

This lack of interest, however, lies another form of hegemony.

The hegemonic nature of the euro, however, is very different from that expressed by the dollar. The euro was not meant to become the international currency. The euro was meant to internationalize a modus operandi in the management of currency and finance that sees central banks and other regulatory entities as custodians, and together architects, of the new financial and monetary system with the states on the background.

It does not matter how many the reserve currencies are. The point is that all the reserve currencies (and thus the states which express them) share the same set of rules.

This is the terrain of political confrontation between the euro and the dollar. Not just the volume of payments or reserves they express.

This is the fork in the road in front of which we are.


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