Is Dollar dominance in doubt? New Triffin dilemma?

TIm Sablik of Richmond Fed in this article looks at the question of whether dollar dominance will continue:

While there may not be a single obvious replacement for the dollar, that doesn’t mean that countries haven’t been diversifying into other currencies. The dollar’s share of global foreign exchange reserves fell to a 25-year low at the end of 2020, to 59 percent from 71 percent in 1999.

Serkan Arslanalp and Chima Simpson-Bell of the IMF and Barry Eichengreen of the University of California, Berkeley, referred to this development in a recent IMF working paper as “the stealth erosion of dollar dominance.” The dollar isn’t being replaced on bank balance sheets by another single currency like the euro or renminbi, they found. Rather, most of the shift away from dollars has been into dozens of smaller currencies. They cited a greater desire for portfolio diversification on the part of central banks as well as the falling cost of transacting in smaller currencies as factors that have contributed to this change. This has led some economists to speculate that we could be heading toward a “multipolar” world of many different competing currencies, which could have some advantages.

“Just like biodiversity makes for a more robust global ecology, a multipolar system will be more robust,” says Eichengreen. “In addition, an expanding global economy needs additional international liquidity to grease the wheels of globalization, and the U.S. can’t provide the requisite safe and liquid assets all by itself.”

New Triffin dilemma:

Indeed, many economists point to a new kind of Triffin dilemma as a greater risk to dollar supremacy than the use of sanctions. Just as the United States faced a crisis of confidence in its ability to back the dollars in circulation during the Bretton Woods era, economists have warned that it could face a similar challenge in the coming years to supply enough safe assets to meet global demand while simultaneously maintaining confidence in its ability to repay its debts. Having more options for safe assets to choose from in the form of different currencies could solve this problem, but not all economists agree that a multipolar system would necessarily be more stable. Competition among countries to grab the reserve currency crown could lead to coordination challenges and questions about which assets are truly safe.

Moreover, the transition from the dollar regime to its successor could be unstable. “One historical precedent is the coexistence of dollar and sterling during the interwar years,” the late Harvard University macroeconomist Emmanuel Farhi told Econ Focus in a 2019 interview. “It’s not a particularly happy precedent; it was a period of monetary instability. You saw frequent rebalancing of international portfolios into one reserve currency and out of another, which created a lot of volatility.”

History teaches that dominant currencies change infrequently and often over long transition periods. But crises can be the catalyst for those transitions, as was the case when the British pound’s centuries-long reign started to unravel after World War I. While almost no economist predicts that the dollar will be replaced soon, market confidence is fickle, and the types of crises that spark a changing of the reserve currency guard are inherently hard to predict.


One Response to “Is Dollar dominance in doubt? New Triffin dilemma?”

  1. Is Dollar dominance in doubt? New Triffin dilemma? - Daily News DOT Says:

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