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The Dollar Almighty is Weathering the De-Dollarization Storm: ‘In God We Trust . . . ‘

There has been speculation lately that the U.S. dollar is in major decline. A long-term trend has been toward currency diversification in global financial transactions and trade. Despite that, the US Dollar shall remain the currency of choice of economic agents, particularly Central Bankers.

By Mohammad Ibrahim Fheili

Theories of currency choice can be classified based on the three conventional uses of money. Medium-of-Exchange theories emphasise that a currency is adopted if it guarantees the lowest transaction costs or maximises room for a mutually beneficial exchange.

These theories stress country size as a fundamental force, the likelihood of multiple coordination equilibria and other macroeconomic factors that make it too costly to use currencies of developing countries, which explains the existence of only a small subset of global currencies.

Store-of-Value theories link currency choice in exports with the firm’s financing currency as part of a combined risk-management decision. In comparison, Unit-of-Account theories postulate that a price is set in a given currency and is not adjusted in the short run, thus forming the basis for open economy analysis.

There are about 180 currencies worldwide, but a few dominant currencies play an outsized role in international trade, finance, and central bank foreign exchange reserves. For years, the US Dollar has had a dominant global presence, followed to a lesser extent by the Euro and a handful of others.

The importance of currencies is never more evident than in global trade, where exchange rates are often at the centre of fierce economic and political debates. Indeed, using currencies in international trade is vital for international shock transmission and optimal monetary and exchange rate policy design in an open economy.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) publishes reports about Central Bankers' appetite for holding foreign currency reserves which market observers and economists often use to praise one currency and write the eulogy of another. However, that's different from the IMF's intention behind disclosing these figures. 

According to IMF data, the share of the US dollar in foreign exchange reserves decreased from 65.4% to 58.4% between 2016 and 2022. On the other hand, the percentage of the Chinese Renminbi, the Japanese Yen, the British Pound and the European Euro rose.

This does not necessarily indicate a weakening dollar on the foreign currency reserves landscape. So many events shaped the world between 2016 and 2022? Let’s check some which might have had some influence on the choice of currency:

  1. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) began in 2016 with considerable fanfare. The largest regional trade deal in history and a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s re-balance to Asia. But the deal came under fierce attack from both Democrats and Republicans.
  2. The trade liberalisation, which the United States spearheaded and helped drive global growth, may now retreat, with unforetold consequences for countries worldwide.
  3. Britons voted 52 to 48 per cent for “Leave.” Despite all the political turmoil that follows, t “Brexit meant Brexit.”
  4. The Internet was supposed to improve the quality of American democracy: Russian operatives allegedly hacked the US election. On November 8, Americans elected Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States (POTUS). Trump was a true disrupter of US foreign policies, including trade.
  5. Biden, the 46th POTUS, and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on the sidelines of a G20 Summit. They promised to work to reduce mutual tensions and pledged more cooperation in areas like climate change and public health. But there is a long road ahead.
  6. Russia launched a special military operation that it said was needed to force the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine. This invasion exposed significant geopolitical divisions. As a result, the world struggled to adapt to price shocks, supply disruptions, and food shortages.
  7. In September 2016, the IMF, with the help of Christine Lagarde, added the Chinese Renminbi to Special Drawing Rights Basket when China was colonising many parts of the world with its unchallenged economic power.
  8. Gold gained worldwide due to mounting inflation and a lack of trust in the banking system. The world has never truly recovered from the 2008/09 global financial crisis only because corrupt and unethical bankers continue to populate the economic landscape.
  9. Many countries in the GCC have been investing in diversifying away from Oil and gas as the only sources of revenue instead of holding their surpluses in foreign currency reserves.
  10. The escalating US sanctions in recent years against individuals, firms, states, state enterprises, and government officials scared away central bankers. They forced them to consider possible alternatives to holding the US Dollars. The US Treasury needs to cool off a bit because none of the sanctions has proven effective as a deterrent.  

These developments, which emerged in recent years, transformed the foreign currency reserves at central banks from a simple Balance of Payment Account to a foreign policy tool. Some Countries view the dominance of the U.S. dollar as a threat to their sovereignty their independence and want to reduce the influence of the U.S. on their economy.

The U.S. monetary policy can have significant impacts on the global financial system. The concentration of the global financial system on the U.S. dollar can also create instability. On the other hand, the U.S. has a large national debt, and there are concerns about the ability to pay its debts in the long term. That is, countries that hold significant amounts of dollars in their foreign reserves are exposed to currency risk, which can be costly and difficult to manage. 

While the US dollar accounts for a disproportionate share of international trade, there is a small subset of currencies that are actively used in this trade alongside the dollar, most notably the euro, but to a lesser extent, the pound, the Japanese yen, the Swiss franc, and the Chinese yuan.

In some bilateral trade flows, these currencies play as important a role as the dollar, with considerable variation in currency use across individual firms, even within narrowly defined industries. International trade has been changing more in line with “fragmented globalisation” instead of all-out globalisation, which forces a redirection of trade to support regional over global trade, and questions about the true independence of central banks from political contaminations are becoming increasingly legitimate.

These changes, among others, will most likely influence currency choice by economic agents and central bankers. I still bet on the US Dollar and “In God We Trust”.

author avatar
Mohammad Ibrahim Fheili
"If you only take small risks, you are only entitled to a small life"
 
Mohammad Ibrahim Fheili
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One comment on “The Dollar Almighty is Weathering the De-Dollarization Storm: ‘In God We Trust . . . ‘”

  1. China
    is ALREADY using a yuan with
    demurrage (holding charges).
    I’ll bet on
    The US Dollar with
    demurrage (holding charges).
    Plan B:
    Trump Money with
    demurrage (holding charges).
    When are you going to start talking about it?
    When it is done correctly,
    (meaning that the paper money
    is not left out of the picture or deleted)
    does NOT make a currency weak,
    it makes it strong,
    and MUCH more reliable.
    💜 Angel NicGillicuddy

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