Wikinvest Wire

Still reeling from Hiroshima?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Comments such as those made by Japanese Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano as reported by Blooomberg earlier today on the subject of the attractiveness of long-term U.S. debt make you wonder where the Pacific island nation might be 60 years from now, independence-wise, as they seem to have made little progress since the end of World War II.

In preparation for this weekend's G8 meeting, Yosano noted that Japan has "complete trust in the fact that the U.S. views its strong-dollar policy as fundamental", going on to emphasize the point by characterizing said trust as being "absolutely unshakable", adding the final punctuation that they "have complete faith in U.S. economic and fiscal policy".

It's not clear if this statement is more naive than it is laughable - it is certainly as laughable as the notion that we Americans have a strong-dollar policy at all.

Recall that, for years, U.S. Treasury Secretaries (with the notable exception of Paul O'Neill who, not coincidentally, didn't last very long) have been parroting the official government line that "a strong dollar policy is in the national interest". This belies the reality that actions taken at all levels of government since the bursting of the Nasdaq bubble almost ten years ago, particularly the actions of the central bank, make plain that no one stateside really cares about the value of the dollar.

Naturally, as we all learned very painfully last year, when oil prices get too high there is an outpouring of concern about the value of the dollar, emotions that are quickly overwhelmed by the ripple effect of a lower dollar when nearly all the world's business arrangements are transacted in greenbacks.

That has been a fundamental part of the problem with the global economy for some time now, a fact the Mr. Yosano appears to be blissfully unaware of along with more recent developments like nations such as China, Brazil, Russia, and others who are now loudly objecting to the status quo of dollar hegemony.

Surely, some policymakers in Japan are now mindful of the fact that they've hitched their wagon to what is now clearly the wrong horse in the 21st century. You'd think that you'd at least hear rumblings of discontent along with the rest of the world rather than blind obedience.

Granted, they must now feel a bit like Donal Trump's bankers where it is becoming clear that it would be much more painful to let nature take its course, opting instead to do what they can to help make things go along as they have been for years, but at some point, you have to say enough is enough.

Neither the Donald's business model, nor that of the U.S. is sustainable.

Back in the 1980s, when Japan was at their post-WWII peak, the U.S. was derided for not looking past the next quarter while the Japanese had long-term plans.

What's their long-term plan for business relations with the U.S.?

To hope and pray that Americans will continue to buy Toyotas and Hondas well into the 22nd century?

Japan has one of the largest economies in the world but, apparently, one of the tiniest backbones, the dependence on U.S. military power to secure energy supplies and a deference for no military of their own making them beholden to the whims of the U.S. twenty years after their economic miracle proved to be little more than a U.S.-style bursting asset bubble.

At what point do the Japanese assert their independence again?

They ought to at least start asking a few questions...


Anonymous said...

Have to disagree with your analysis here, Tim.

I think Yosano's statement should not be taken as a reflection of his actual thoughts, but more a (somewhat aukward) face-saving expression of political support of a friend.

In terms of geopolitical bets in the 21st century, Japan is being quite pragmatic. The Chinese don't like them, to put it mildly, for historical reasons also stoked by the government.

So it is a no-brainer for them to remain our best friend in Asia -- they have even more to gain from it than we do. They are too small to form an independent center of power. Japan has also been sending feelers to India recently, as a long-term hedge.

In terms of selling Hondas, Toyotas, etc, they've been doing it all over the world, and have managed to retain a strong industrial base. Also, their military is actually quite capable -- look it up.

Tim said...

Yes, it's all about politics. It just looks so lame as compared to the Chinese laughing at our Treasury Secretary.

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