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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease 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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid