The World Is Creeping Toward De-Dollarization

https://mises.org/blog/world-creeping-toward-de-dollarization

The World Is Creeping Toward De-Dollarization

19 Sept 2017

The issue of when a global reserve currency begins or ends is not an exact science. There are no press releases announcing it, and neither are there big international conferences that end with the signing of treaties and a photo shoot. Nevertheless we can say with confidence that the reign of every world reserve currency has to come to and end at some point in time. During a changeover from one global currency to another, gold (and to a lesser extent silver) has always played a decisive role. Central banks and governments have long been aware that the dollar has a sell-by date as a reserve currency. But it has taken until now for the subject to be discussed openly. The fact that the issue has been on the radar of a powerful bank like JP Morgan for at least five years, should give one pause. Questions regarding the global reserve currency are not exactly discussed on CNBC every day. Most mainstream economists avoid the topic like the plague. The issue is too politically charged. However, that doesn’t make it any less important for investors to look for answers. On the contrary. The following questions need to be asked: What indications are there that the world is turning its back on the US dollar? And what are the clues that gold’s role could be strengthened in a new system?

The mechanism underlying today’s “dollar standard” is widely known and the term “petrodollar” describes it well. This system is based on an informal agreement the US and Saudi Arabia arrived at in the mid-1970s. The result of this deal: Oil, and consequently all other important commodities, is traded in US dollars — and only in US dollars. Oil producers then “recycle” these “petrodollars” into US treasuries. This circular flow of dollars has enabled the US to pile up a towering mountain of debt of nearly $20 trillion — without having to worry about its own financial stability. At least, until now.

For a long time the basis on which this global currency system rests was poorly documented. Finally, Bloomberg published a comprehensive article in May 2016, which provided detailed confirmation of the agreement that was hitherto only known as a rumor. The fact that this article is published now also represents a subtle clue that there are simmering shifts in the global currency system.

The trend becomes ever more tangible and can be described by the following term: de-dollarization. The world is looking for alternatives to the dollar — and finds them more and more often. At the same time the big oil producers and the largest exporters have stopped accumulating US debt securities. In one sentence: Since 1973 the dollar standard has been based on “usage demand” for dollars — they were needed. But when China and Russia find alternatives for their bilateral trading activity, they need fewer dollars. The same applies to European countries which have adopted the euro since 1999.

There have been many attempts by various nations to undermine the dollar’s preeminence in recent decades. Some were nipped in the bud by US interventions — such as the plan of Iraq’s former dictator Saddam Hussein to sell oil for euros. Or the rumored plan of Libya’s eccentric ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi to issue a pan-African gold currency.

Others are less well known, but are indeed continuing to “bubble” below the surface: For example, since 2008, an agreement exists between Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar which provides for the creation of a monetary union. The planned new currency is nicknamed — rather unimaginatively — the “gulfo.” “The project is inspired by the European currency union, which is seen as a great success in the Arab world,” according to an article by Telegraph journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. He inter alia quotes Nahed Taher, the CEO of Bahrain Gulf One Investment Bank: “The US dollar has failed. We need to delink from it.” However, it appears the plan has been put on hold in recent years. As recently as mid-2013 a statement was issued according to which the common currency was going to be put in place “by 2015 at the latest.” Today it is no longer even talked about. Moreover, other potential members such as the United Arab Emirates or Oman have so far failed to join the club. One should nevertheless keep an eye on developments in the Gulf.

A clear signal that something is afoot would be the abolition of the Saudi riyal’s peg to the US dollar. As recently as April of this year economist Nasser Saeedi advised Middle Eastern countries to prepare for a “new normal” — and specifically to review the dollar pegs of their currencies: “By 2025 it is clear that the center of global economic geography is very much in Asia. What we’ve been living in over the past two decades is a very big shift in the political, economic, and financial geography.”

While the role of oil-producing countries (and particularly Saudi Arabia) shouldn’t be underestimated, at present the driving forces with regard to de-dollarization are primarily Moscow and Beijing. We want to take a closer look at this process.

There exist numerous political statements in this context which leave no room for doubt. The Russians and Chinese are quite open about their views regarding the role of gold in the current phase of the transition. Thus, Russian prime minister Dimitri Medvedev, at the time president of Russia, held a gold coin up to a camera on occasion of the 2008 G8 meeting in Aquila in Italy. Medvedev said that debates over the reserve currency question had become a permanent fixture of the meetings of government leaders.

Almost ten years later, the topic of currencies and gold is on the Sino-Russian agenda again. In March, Russia’s central bank opened its first office in Beijing. Russia is preparing to place its first renminbi-denominated government bond. Both sides have intensified efforts in recent years to settle bilateral trade not in US dollars, but in rubles and yuan. Gold is considered important by both countries.

The gradual move away from the USD to a multi-polar monetary order has several important effects, which only make sense when viewed through this lens. Contrary to what is asserted in most mainstream reports, oil-producing countries are not so much interested in a much higher oil price in USD terms, but rather in competition for market share. They are increasingly able to choose in which currencies they want to trade. The most important effect has become evident since 2014: two of the largest holders of US treasuries (China and Saudi Arabia) have abandoned their support of Washington. On the other hand, oil producers have no interest in recycling their revenues as “petrodollars.”

The process of moving away from the dollar — prepared by Europe and triggered by China and Russia — can no longer be stopped. And as a “supra-national” reserve asset, gold plays an important role in it.

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Collapse of the Petrodollar looming

This will be a recurring theme in the geopolitical future, so it deserves getting a full understanding of it.  Wider use of currencies other than the Dollar avoids oil-buyers holding a stash of Dollars (usually parked temporarily in US Treasury bonds) to buy oil and a whole host of other commodities, and trading on US-controlled FX markets to get them (with the inevitable fees for the transaction), and the SWIFT system for handling the paperwork for moving the money around the international banking world.

This will considerably reduce the demand for Dollars and hence its FX conversion rate.  A weaker Dollar will in turn make US imports more expensive and exports less valuable.  Since the US already has a trade deficit with the rest of the world, this will make it harder to trade their way out of trouble.  At some point everyone will see that the US can never repay its debts and their bonds will become worthless.

Of course since the world is past the Peak Oil point (it probably happened in 2010), a future world without oil is not going to be viable long term, but the resulting collapse is not going to be evenly spread.  The US will collapse first, and then the world will switch to trading in Yuan (backed by Gold).  As the US struggles to hold its Empire together, the world economy will break into two currency blocs, and the potential for WW3 to break out will get even stronger.

https://dollarcollapse.com/currency-war/suddenly-de-dollarization-thing/

Suddenly, “De-Dollarization” Is A Thing

For what seems like decades, other countries have been tiptoeing away from their dependence on the US dollar. China, Russia, and India have cut deals in which they agree to accept each others’ currencies for bi-lateral trade while Europe, obviously, designed the euro to be a reserve asset and international medium of exchange.

These were challenges to the dollar’s dominance, but they weren’t mortal threats.

What’s happening lately, however, is a lot more serious. It even has an ominous-sounding name: de-dollarization. Here’s an excerpt from a much longer article by “strategic risk consultant” F. William Engdahl:

Gold, Oil and De-Dollarization? Russia and China’s Extensive Gold Reserves, China Yuan Oil Market

(Global Research) – China, increasingly backed by Russia—the two great Eurasian nations—are taking decisive steps to create a very viable alternative to the tyranny of the US dollar over world trade and finance. Wall Street and Washington are not amused, but they are powerless to stop it.  So long as Washington dirty tricks and Wall Street machinations were able to create a crisis such as they did in the Eurozone in 2010 through Greece, world trading surplus countries like China, Japan and then Russia, had no practical alternative but to buy more US Government debt—Treasury securities—with the bulk of their surplus trade dollars. Washington and Wall Street could print endless volumes of dollars backed by nothing more valuable than F-16s and Abrams tanks. China, Russia and other dollar bond holders in truth financed the US wars that were aimed at them, by buying US debt. Then they had few viable alternative options.

Viable Alternative Emerges

Now, ironically, two of the foreign economies that allowed the dollar an artificial life extension beyond 1989—Russia and China—are carefully unveiling that most feared alternative, a viable, gold-backed international currency and potentially, several similar currencies that can displace the unjust hegemonic role of the dollar today.

For several years both the Russian Federation and the Peoples’ Republic of China have been buying huge volumes of gold, largely to add to their central bank currency reserves which otherwise are typically in dollars or euro currencies. Until recently it was not clear quite why.

For several years it’s been known in gold markets that the largest buyers of physical gold were the central banks of China and of Russia. What was not so clear was how deep a strategy they had beyond simply creating trust in the currencies amid increasing economic sanctions and bellicose words of trade war out of Washington.

Now it’s clear why.

China and Russia, joined most likely by their major trading partner countries in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), as well as by their Eurasian partner countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) are about to complete the working architecture of a new monetary alternative to a dollar world.

Currently, in addition to founding members China and Russia, the SCO full members include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and most recently India and Pakistan. This is a population of well over 3 billion people, some 42% of the entire world population, coming together in a coherent, planned, peaceful economic and political cooperation.

Gold-Backed Silk Road

It’s clear that the economic diplomacy of China, as of Russia and her Eurasian Economic Union group of countries, is very much about realization of advanced high-speed rail, ports, energy infrastructure weaving together a vast new market that, within less than a decade at present pace, will overshadow any economic potentials in the debt-bloated economically stagnant OECD countries of the EU and North America.

What until now was vitally needed, but not clear, was a strategy to get the nations of Eurasia free from the dollar and from their vulnerability to further US Treasury sanctions and financial warfare based on their dollar dependence. This is now about to happen.

At the September 5 annual BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China, Russian President Putin made a simple and very clear statement of the Russian view of the present economic world. He stated,

“Russia shares the BRICS countries’ concerns over the unfairness of the global financial and economic architecture, which does not give due regard to the growing weight of the emerging economies. We are ready to work together with our partners to promote international financial regulation reforms and to overcome the excessive domination of the limited number of reserve currencies.”

To my knowledge he has never been so explicit about currencies. Put this in context of the latest financial architecture unveiled by Beijing, and it becomes clear the world is about to enjoy new degrees of economic freedom.

China Yuan Oil Futures

According to a report in the Japan Nikkei Asian Review, China is about to launch a crude oil futures contract denominated in Chinese yuan that will be convertible into gold. This, when coupled with other moves over the past two years by China to become a viable alternative to London and New York to Shanghai, becomes really interesting.

China is the world’s largest importer of oil, the vast majority of it still paid in US dollars. If the new Yuan oil futures contract gains wide acceptance, it could become the most important Asia-based crude oil benchmark, given that China is the world’s biggest oil importer. That would challenge the two Wall Street-dominated oil benchmark contracts in North Sea Brent and West Texas Intermediate oil futures that until now has given Wall Street huge hidden advantages.

That would be one more huge manipulation lever eliminated by China and its oil partners, including very specially Russia. Introduction of an oil futures contract traded in Shanghai in Yuan, which recently gained membership in the select IMF SDR group of currencies, oil futures especially when convertible into gold, could change the geopolitical balance of power dramatically away from the Atlantic world to Eurasia.

In April 2016 China made a major move to become the new center for gold exchange and the world center of gold trade, physical gold. China today is the world’s largest gold producer, far ahead of fellow BRICS member South Africa, with Russia number two.

Now to add the new oil futures contract traded in China in Yuan with the gold backing will lead to a dramatic shift by key OPEC members, even in the Middle East, to prefer gold-backed Yuan for their oil over inflated US dollars that carry a geopolitical risk as Qatar experienced following the Trump visit to Riyadh some months ago. Notably, Russian state oil giant, Rosneft just announced that Chinese state oil company, CEFC China Energy Company Ltd. Just bought a 14% share of Rosneft from Qatar. It’s all beginning to fit together into a very coherent strategy.

Meanwhile, in Latin America:

De-Dollarization Spikes – Venezuela Stops Accepting Dollars For Oil Payments

(Zero Hedge) – Did the doomsday clock on the petrodollar (and implicitly US hegemony) just tick one more minute closer to midnight?Apparently confirming what President Maduro had warned following the recent US sanctions, The Wall Street Journal reports that Venezuela has officially stopped accepting US Dollars as payment for its crude oil exports.

As we previously noted, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said last Thursday that Venezuela will be looking to “free” itself from the U.S. dollar next week. According to Reuters,

“Venezuela is going to implement a new system of international payments and will create a basket of currencies to free us from the dollar,” Maduro said in a multi-hour address to a new legislative “superbody.” He reportedly did not provide details of this new proposal.

Maduro hinted further that the South American country would look to using the yuan instead, among other currencies.

“If they pursue us with the dollar, we’ll use the Russian ruble, the yuan, yen, the Indian rupee, the euro,” Maduro also said.

The state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela SA, known as PdVSA, has told its private joint venture partners to open accounts in euros and to convert existing cash holdings into Europe’s main currency, said one project partner.

This first step towards one or more gold-backed Eurasian currencies certainly looks like a viable and — for a lot of big players out there — welcome addition to the global money stock.

Venezuela, meanwhile illustrates the growing perception of US weakness. It used to be that a small country refusing to take dollars could expect regime change in short order. Now, maybe not so much.

Combine the above with the emergence of bitcoin and its kin as the preferred monetary asset of techies and libertarians, and the monetary world suddenly looks downright multi-polar.