Finance Leaders Call for IMF Role in Averting Protectionist `Currency War’

Sandrine Rastello and Iuri Dantas

Global governments tasked the International Monetary Fund with calming the recent outbreak of tensions over currencies amid signs they are already triggering a protectionist backlash.

Officials including U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and Egyptian Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali said the lender should outline how countries can expand their economies without damaging those of other nations. China is accused of keeping the yuan undervalued to boost exports, while low interest rates in the U.S. and other industrial nations are blamed for propelling capital flows into emerging markets.

“The IMF has an important role to play to help ensure that progress toward rebalancing strengthens,” Geithner said in a speech at the IMF’s annual meeting yesterday in Washington. “It is ultimately the responsibility of countries to act, but the IMF must speak out effectively about challenges and marshal support for action.”

Currency intervention has returned to the fore as countries from China to Brazil and Japan try to restrain their exchange rates to secure a trading edge. That has roiled currency markets as has the prospect of easier monetary policy from the Federal Reserve. The dollar fell last week to its lowest in 15 years against the yen.

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