Today’s announcement that Europe (at least the few remaining solvent countries) have agreed to join the Chinese led infrastructure bank is the end of the dollar. We can debate this point but it will not make a difference.
The consequences will soon be felt at the market: both the grocery store and stock market.
It appears the sea of de-dollarization has reached the shores of Europe. With Australia and UK having already moved in the direction of joining the China-led AIIB, The FT reports that France, Germany, and Italy have now all agreed to join the development bank as ‘pivot to Asia’ appears to be Plan B for Europe.
As Greg Sheridan previously noted, “the saga of the China Bank is almost a textbook case of the failure of Obama’s foreign policy,” but as The FT concludes, the European decisions represent a significant setback for the Obama administration, which has argued that western countries could have more influence over the workings of the new bank if they stayed together on the outside.
As Forbes notes, this leaves Obama with 3 uncomfortable options…
1) Continue to press its allies not to join the AIIB until governance procedures for the bank are assured;
2) Join the AIIB itself; or
3) Drop the issue.
Option one is clearly a losing proposition. There is no sense expending further political capital trying to persuade regional and other actors not to join the bank. It is a small-potato issue that is making the United States look weak at a time when U.S. influence in the region is otherwise quite strong.
Option two, which I—along with virtually every other China analyst outside the U.S. government—supported back in October is that the United States join the AIIB. There are several reasons why this is a good idea. It would allow the United States a seat inside the tent where it could be both a positive force for best governance practices and an internal critic if things go awry. It also would likely help ensure that U.S. companies have fair access to the bidding opportunities that will arise from the AIIB’s investment financing. Joining now will be hard to accomplish in a face-saving manner, but the United States could begin by publicly recognizing the need for the financing capabilities in Asia that the AIIB can provide and by moving quickly to work with Australia, South Korea, and Japan to work out common principles of accession.
Option three is for the United States to back away from the AIIB, release other countries from any pressure they might feel from the United States not to join, and let the AIIB rise or fall on its own merits. Chinese-led resource and infrastructure investment has encountered significant difficulty in a number of countries, including Zambia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Brazil, and Sri Lanka, among others. If the AIIB does not do a better job than China’s own development banks, it will be a stain not only on Beijing but also on all the other countries that are participating. If it does operate at the same standard as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, then it will be a welcome addition to the world of development financing. The United States does not have to be in every regional organization in the Asia Pacific; it is not in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, for example, and it is only an observer in the Conference on Interactions and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia. It can sit out the AIIB or assume observer status as well.
Washington’s priority should be on advancing U.S. ideals and institutions through the pivot or rebalance rather than blocking Chinese initiatives unless absolutely necessary. (Let’s not confuse China’s effort to develop the AIIB with its push to implement an Air Defense Identification Zone, for example.) Opposition to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has become a millstone around Washington’s neck. It is time to remove it one way or another.
De-dollarization continues… As Simon Black recently concluded, now we can see words are turning into action…
[The Allies] might be too polite to tell the US straight up– “Look, you have $18.1 trillion in official debt, you have $42 trillion in unfunded liabilities, and you’re kind of a dick. I’m dumping you.”
So instead they’re going with the “it’s not you, it’s me” approach.
But to anyone paying attention, it’s pretty obvious where this trend is going.
It won’t be long before other western nations jump on the anti-dollar bandwagon with action and not just words.
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Bottom line: this isn’t theory or conjecture anymore. Every shred of objective evidence suggests that the dollar’s dominance is coming to an end.