Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cowen on the Yuan

In today's NY Times, economist Tyler Cowen argues:

The United States should not be spending its international political capital on yuan revaluation.
I agree.

Larry Lindsey put the economic logic well in a Wall Street Journal column last April:

America, however, benefits from this arrangement. The Chinese clearly undervalue their exchange rate. This means American consumers are able to buy goods at an artificially low price, making them winners.

In order to maintain this arrangement, the People's Bank of China must buy excess dollars, and has accumulated nearly $1 trillion of reserves. Since it has no domestic use for them, it turns around and lends them back to America in our Treasury, corporate and housing loan markets. This means that both Treasury borrowing costs and mortgage interest rates are lower than they otherwise would be. American homeowners and taxpayers are winners as a result.

There are losers, of course, most notably American producers of goods that are now made in China. Yet the losses to these producers are outweighed by the benefits from Chinese subsidies of our imports of consumer goods and the reductions in our borrowing costs from generous Chinese lending. Though correct, in politics these gains are now beside the point.

Once again, I agree.