News / Asia

Asian Economies Struggle With Capital Flows, Finance Leaders Warn of 'Currency War'

Asian Economies Struggle With Capital Flows, Finance Leaders Warn of 'Currency War'
Asian Economies Struggle With Capital Flows, Finance Leaders Warn of 'Currency War'

Asian governments are struggling to manage strong capital flows that could threaten their economies. But international finance leaders worry such efforts may destabilize the global financial system.

As the yen neared a 15-year high against the dollar Friday, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Japan will continue to watch for "excessive" moves in the  exchange rate and will take necessary action.

Japan's central bank recently has stepped into the markets to weaken the yen. A strong yen hurts exports, which are crucial to the country's economic recovery.

But international finance leaders fear market interventions could trigger a cascade of similar actions by other central banks, leading to a "currency war."

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss Kahn warned Thursday against using currencies as "weapons" to gain trade advantages.

In the past, Asian central banks aggressively managed their currencies. Over the past decade, they did significantly less management, but in recent weeks, currency traders say there have been new signs of intervention.

Song Seng-Wun, chief economist of the bank CIMB in Singapore, says Asian central banks are not trying to stop their currencies from rising. Instead, they are managing the appreciation so it will not be too disruptive to their economies.

"They're just moderating it to make it less destructive and for businesses, more predictable," said Song Seng-Wun. "Because if you allow it to move too fast, it makes planning very difficult, if not impossible."

However, the region's largest economy, China, tightly controls its currency, the yuan. China's trading partners want the yuan to appreciate by 30 percent or more to correct what they say is an undervalued currency. Beijing argues doing so would force many Chinese manufacturers to shut down.

Some economists say Asian central bankers are less worried about export competitiveness than about the dangers of strong capital inflows.

Song says the weak economies in the U.S. and Europe have led investors to move money to more profitable markets in Asia's fast-growing economies. That pushes up prices, including the value of Asian currencies.

In recent days, the Thai baht and Malaysian ringgit hit 13-year highs against the dollar. The Korean won rose to a five-month high, while the Indonesian rupiah neared three-year high.

"It's like the globe is one big tray of water and the flow is going from the side, which is being held up toward the other side, which is Asia," said Song. "So governments are trying to balance trade a little bit, rather than letting the money flowing through make the exchange rate go up very fast, which in turn could attract even more [money]."

The problem with that foreign capital can flow out very quickly in a crisis.

In the mid-1990s, Asia saw large inflows of capital, which was quickly pulled out when economies weakened in 1997. That led to a rapid depreciation of currencies despite intense market intervention by central bankers. The resulting economic crisis led to severe recession and thousands of failed businesses across the region.

Shin Jang-sup is an economics professor at the National University of Singapore and previously was an adviser to the South Korean Ministry of Finance. He says Asian central bankers face a more serious problem today than in 1997.

"Their interest rates are historically low, and if they lower their interest rates further they face inflationary pressure," said Shin Jang-sup. "So it's very difficult. Also, after the Asian financial crisis, they carried out various market reforms to facilitate international flows of capital, so it's very difficult to re-introduce some form of capital control. Also the amount of money is much larger than before."

The International Institute of Finance says $825 billion in capital will flow to emerging markets this year, while the Asian Development Bank says more than $200 billion stayed in Asia last year.

On Thursday in Washington, the IMF's Strauss-Kahn said while capital flows are important to global development, he recognizes the dilemma countries face.

"In the short term, we may not be able to have a revaluation of a currency enough to mitigate the effect of the capital flow," he said. "Then you have prudential action that can be taken. Also, you can accumulate reserves and at the end, as we say for months now, we can understand that some element of capital controls can be put in place."

Given its complexity, Strauss-Kahn says, the best way to address the issue is through cooperation among the Group of 20 nations.

In 1985, Japan, the United States, Germany and Britain signed the Plaza Accord, and allowed the dollar to weaken to help Washington narrow its trade deficit and recover from a severe recession.

Whether a similar international agreement can be cobbled together is among the topics international finance leaders are expected to discuss this week in Washington at the IMF and World Bank annual meetings. Government leaders are likely to also take up the issue at the G20 summit in Seoul next month.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid