Le yuan chinois et la leçon japonaise

SHANGHAI – Le taux d'appréciation du yuan qui permettrait de rééquilibrer la balance commerciale chinoise est une question cruciale pour l'économie de la planète. Mais les réponses couvrent tout l'éventail du possible. Alors que les uns disent que le yuan n'est en rien sous-évalué, d'autres affirment qu'il devrait augmenter de plus de 30% par rapport au dollar.

Les différences entre les modèles macroéconomiques doivent être considérables pour qu'ils aboutissent à des estimations aussi variées. Mais tout le monde s'accorde au moins sur un point, l'idée arbitraire tant du point de vue théorique qu'empirique qu'il existerait un taux de change d'équilibre.

Le problème théorique est simple : la balance commerciale d'un pays ne dépend pas seulement de la valeur de sa devise sur les marchés des changes. Les taux d'intérêt, le niveau du chômage, la demande globale et les innovations institutionnelles jouent aussi un rôle. Ainsi que l'a signalé l'économiste Joan Robinson en 1947, n'importe quel taux de change correspond à la valeur d'équilibre d'une combinaison donnée de ces variables. Selon sa fameuse expression, le taux de change d'équilibre est une chimère.

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