Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, accused developed nations of unleashing a “monetary tsunami” on Thursday which undermines the competitiveness of emerging economies like her own.
The global economic crisis, said Rousseff, “will not be overcome simply through measures of austerity, fiscal consolidations and depreciation of the labor force, let alone through quantitative easing policies that have triggered what can only be described as a monetary tsunami; have led to a currency war and have introduced new and perverse forms of protectionism in the world.”
Since December 2008, the American Federal Reserve has kept short-term rates below 0.25 percent and purchased some $2.3 trillion in long-term securities during two rounds of “quantitative easing” to encourage bank lending.
The European Central Bank in more recent years has injected an equivalent amount of cheap money into the financial industry, hoping to prevent bank failures and stave off a spiraling debt crisis.
Since much of global trade, particularly in basic commodities such as food and fuel, is denominated in American dollars, markets around the world are affected when the Fed floods them with new money.
Poor countries that are heavily dependent on imports are hit especially hard. Nations that are dependent on exports for their growth, like China, try to maintain stability by inflating their own currencies to buy up dollars, a move that has been criticized by the Americans because it would give Chinese exporters an “unfair” advantage over their Western competitors.
China, in turn, has accused the United States of driving down the costs of their exports by deflating the price of the dollar.
In November 2011, China’s vice finance minister, Zhu Guangyao, said that the Fed’s expansionary policy “did not recognize its responsibility to stabilize global markets.” Nor, he said, did the bank “think about the impact of excessive liquidity on emerging markets.”
German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble agreed. He described quantitative easing as “clueless.”
“They have already pumped endless amounts of money into the economy with extremely high budget deficits,” Schäuble said of the Federal Reserve. “The results have been hopeless.”
Rousseff’s outrage stems from the fact that Brazil, China and South Africa have all had to cope with lower than expected economic growth rates this year. With India and Russia, they belong to the BRICS nations whose leaders met in New Delhi last week.