Hypocrisie pétrolière

CAMBRIDGE – La visite du ministre des Finances américain Hank Paulson au Moyen-orient pour soutenir les fixations des taux de change au dollar a-t-elle un sens, alors qu’au même moment, l’administration Bush vilipende les pays asiatiques qui ne laissent pas leurs monnaies s’apprécier plus vite par rapport au dollar ? Hélas, cette incohérence flagrante provient plus de la vulnérabilité financière et économique persistante des États-Unis que d’une incontournable logique économique. Au lieu de prôner l’ancrage des devises au dollar, comme le fait Paulson, les États-Unis devraient soutenir les tentatives en coulisses du Fonds monétaire international de promouvoir la dé-fixation des monnaies pétrolières et du dollar.

L’administration Bush est peut-être inquiète à l’idée que si les pays pétroliers abandonnent l’ancrage au dollar, la faiblesse actuelle du billet vert ne se transforme en déroute. Mais les États-Unis devraient s’inquiéter bien davantage de la promotion d’un réajustement plus rapide de son déficit commercial encore béant, qui sous de nombreux aspects est à l’origine de la récente crise de la crise hypothécaire des subprimes. Les tentatives sur plusieurs fronts de l’administration Bush de repousser les épreuves pour les consommateurs américains, y compris ses politiques fiscales et monétaires extrêmement avantageuses, font courir le risque d’une crise d’une plus grande ampleur dans un avenir pas si lointain. Il est très facile d’imaginer que toute cette stratégie ait un effet boomerang début 2009, rapidement après le début de mandat du nouveau président.

Naturellement, la consolidation des monnaies pétrolières (concernant non seulement les États du golfe mais aussi d’autres pays du Moyen-Orient et la Russie) n’inverserait pas la balance commerciale des États-Unis en un jour. Mais les pays pétroliers comptent pour une grande partie des excédents commerciaux du monde, et un dollar plus faible aiderait d’une certaine façon à promouvoir les exportations américaines, même à court terme.

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