China, Russia change fair trade currency

While we were all enjoying being home for the week, China and Russia made a big joint announcement Nov. 24: they are no longer using the U.S. dollar as the currency used for trade between their countries. They are now going to use their own, national currencies for bilateral trade.

This, in and of itself, may not seem like the biggest of deals, but It’s a political move that has major repercussions on the global scale.

The Chinese, especially, have been worried about the decreasing relative value of the dollar. A lot of lip service has been paid to this particular issue in Chinese politics of late, but the agreement between the Chinese and the Russians is the first big international action that’s been taken in response.

The feeling, though, has been building for some time, both in China and in the rest of the world. The recent economic troubles that we’ve been having haven’t just affected us; they’ve affected the entire world’s economy. This is partly because of factors within the various countries of the world, partly because our recession affects our trade with everyone, but that’s not all there is.

It’s also partly because of the investment that other countries have in our currency — China alone has $2.6 trillion of our currency in their reserves in the form of U.S. Treasuries. Many countries, China included, use the dollar as the baseline for evaluating their own currency — $1 is worth about 6.8 yuan. This means that the value of the dollar has a great deal of importance to the world’s economy, and as such people start to get worried when the dollar is in trouble.

We’ve all seen the effects of inflation over the years, and I’m sure you can remember some curmudgeonly old guy ranting about gas prices having been under 20 cents 60 years ago. Part of the price increase since is due to the increased demand for gas around the world, but part is also due to our dollar becoming less valuable with time.

So what does this mean to you? Well that’s a tricky question. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything. During the last few days the value of the dollar has been steadily increasing, and that’s something that’s likely to continue as the economy recovers.

On the other hand, if the value of the dollar does end up being too much of a risk for other countries to trust, they may release their reserves of the dollar. This is something to be avoided, as the sudden increase in the number of dollars in circulation worldwide would cause massive inflation. We might not be looking at, for example, the post World War I German mark, but it certainly won’t be pretty.

We’re on the road to economic recovery. But we may need to work faster if we want to restore the trust the world has in us, in our economy and in our dollar.