IMF hopes policy studies can head off global currency war

The International Monetary Fund called Saturday for further study on global imbalances and exchange rate policies, stopping short of any specific calls to head off what some see as a looming currency war.

The IMF steering committee, which has been struggling to find a consensus on easing currency tensions among key economies including China and the United States, said the organization should continue its study of the issue.

“While the international monetary system has proved resilient, tensions and vulnerabilities remain as a result of widening global imbalances, continued volatile capital flows, exchange rate movements and issues related to the supply and accumulation of official reserves,” it said in a statement.

“Given that these issues are critically important… we call on the Fund to deepen its work in these areas, including in-depth studies to help increase the effectiveness of policies to manage capital flows.”

The statement from the International Monetary and Financial Committee, the policy arm of the IMF, stopped short of any specific call on China or others to change policies of using a low currency and accumulation of reserves to boost exports.

“There are frictions obviously,” committee chair Youssef Boutros-Ghali said at the conclusion of talks at IMF headquarters in Washington.

“These are being addressed. We have come to the conclusion that the IMF is the place to deal with these issues.”

IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, when asked about the failure to come up with a stronger statement, said that “there is only one obstacle, and that is an agreement of the members.”

He added that “I don’t believe action can be done in a way other than in a cooperative way.”

Recent IMF figures showed Beijing had currency reserves of 2.447 trillion dollars, the largest in the world and nearly 30 percent of the global total. Washington maintains that China purchases large amounts of dollars to keep the yuan artificially low, which distorts global trade by boosting Chinese exports.

The has done little to ease fears of a global currency war, with the United States and China facing off over Beijing’s currency policies.

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