BRUSSELS – Guido Mantega, Brazil’s finance minister, aptly captured the current monetary Zeitgeist when he spoke of a looming “currency war.” What had seemed a bilateral dispute between the United States and China over the renminbi’s exchange rate has mutated into a general controversy over capital flows and currencies.
Today, every country seems to want to depreciate its currency. Japan has resumed foreign-exchange intervention, and the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England are preparing another large-scale purchase of government bonds – a measure called “quantitative easing,” which lowers long-term interest rates and indirectly weakens the currency.
China is fiercely resisting US and European pressure to accelerate the snail-paced appreciation of the renminbi against the dollar. Emerging-market countries are turning to an array of techniques to discourage capital inflows or sterilize their effect on the exchange rate.