BRUSSELS (AP) — The Group of Seven leading industrial nations, which includes the U.S., Japan and Germany, warned Tuesday that volatile movements in exchange rates could adversely hit the global economy.
There have been increasing concerns around the world that countries might manipulate their exchange rates through their domestic economic policies in order to gain an edge. A lower foreign exchange rate can make a country's exports cheaper, thereby boosting growth. But one currency can fall only if another rises - which in turn will create trade problems for other countries.
This process could spark a "currency war" — a destabilizing battle where countries compete against one another to get the lowest exchange rate.
In a statement published Tuesday on the Bank of England website, the G-7 finance ministers and central bankers insisted they remained committed to exchange rates driven by the market — not government or central bank policies — and would consult closely when it comes to sharp movements in foreign currency markets.
"We are agreed that excessive volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates can have adverse implications for economic and financial stability," said the G-7, which also counts Canada, France, Italy and current president, the U.K., among its members.
The statement comes ahead of a meeting in Moscow at the weekend of finance ministers from the world's top 20 industrial and developing countries. In light of the recent swings in the foreign exchange markets, notably relating to the Japanese yen, currency issues were expected to feature heavily during the Group of 20 discussions in the Russian capital.
Central banks, which are set up to operate independently of any government, play a key role in the value of a currency. By setting interest rates and the supply of money in an economy, they in turn influence how valuable a currency is.
Much of the recent volatility in foreign exchange markets has been a by-product of developments affecting the Japanese yen, which dropped Tuesday to its lowest level against the dollar since May 2010. Though the Japanese government has not directly intervened to get the value of the yen down, it has set in motion a series of economic policies, such as setting a higher 2 percent inflation target for its central bank that many in the markets think will lead to more money being created.
The falling yen has contributed to the rising value of the euro. That could have a negative impact on the economy of the 17 European Union countries that use the single currency, which is already in recession. It could be bad for automakers, aircraft manufacturers and other businesses that depend on exports for growth.
Though Japan insists it's not targeting any particular exchange rate, there are fears that the benefits the country will potentially enjoy from the lower yen may force others to start using their currencies as an economic weapon.
That's where the problems really start and conjures up images of the 1930 when countries pursued tit-for-tat devaluations in order to get an edge. However, the outcome was to decimate global trade, accentuate the depression and sow the seeds for World War II.
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