It Isn't Trade Deals That Prevent the Obama Administration from Lowering the Value of the Dollar

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Wednesday, 05 June 2013 04:54

Harold Meyerson has an interesting column warning of conditions that are likely to be in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. However it is misleading in one important respect.

At one point the article notes efforts by Senator Sherrod Brown to require rules that will the United States to retaliate against currency "manipulators," countries that deliberately prop up the value of the dollar against their own currency in order to increase their trade surplus. This is misleading because the United States already has this authority (see this piece, for example) and under almost any conceivable set of circumstances will possess ample means to force down the value of the dollar relative to other currencies.

The reason that the United States runs an over-valued currency, placing U.S. goods and services at a competitive disadvantage, is that powerful interest groups profit from having an over-valued currency. Retailers like Walmart have spent large amounts of money setting up low-cost supply chains in China and other developing countries. This is an important source of their advantage over smaller competitors. They are not anxious to see this advantage eroded by a fall in the value of the dollar.

Similarly, large manufacturers like GE have much of their production overseas. These companies also do not want to see their profits eroded by a fall in the value of the dollar. Major financial companies like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan also tend to favor a high dollar since it means that their money goes further elsewhere in the world and it minimizes the risk of inflation in the United States.

These and other powerful domestic interests are the main reason that the United States does not take steps to reduce the value of the dollar and bring the trade deficit closer to balance. It is misleading to imply that the problem is trade agreements that prevent the Obama administration from acting.

Note -- "rise" was changed to "fall" in 3rd paragraph, thanks David H.