Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Plaza and Louvre Accords

Plaza Accord

The Plaza Accord was an agreement signed on September 22, 1985 by the then G5 nations (France, West Germany, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom). The G5 agreed to devalue the US dollar in relation to the Japanese yen and German Deutsche Mark by intervening in currency markets.

The exchange rate value of the dollar versus the yen declined 51% over the two years after this agreement took place. Most of this devaluation was due to the $10 billion spent by the participating central banks. Currency speculation caused the dollar to continue its fall after the end of coordinated interventions. Unlike some similar financial crises of the 1990s (such as the Mexican and the Argentinian financial crises of 1994 and 2001 respectively), this devaluation was planned, done in an orderly manner with pre-announcement, and did not lead to financial panic in the world markets.

The reason for the dollar's devaluation was two-fold: to reduce the US current account deficit, which had reached 3.5% of the GDP, and to help the US economy to emerge from a serious recession that began in the early 1980s. The U.S. Federal Reserve System under Paul Volcker had overvalued the dollar enough to make industry in the US (particularly the automobile industry) less competitive in the global market. Devaluing the dollar made US exports cheaper to its trading partners, which in turn meant that other countries bought more American-made goods and services. The Plaza Accord was successful in reducing the US trade deficit with Western European nations but largely failed to fulfill its primary objective of alleviating the trade deficit with Japan due to the fact that this deficit was due to structural rather than monetary conditions. US manufactured goods became more competitive in the exports market but were still largely unable to succeed in the Japanese domestic market due to Japan's structural restrictions on imports. The recessionary effects of the strengthened yen in Japan's export-dependent economy created an incentive for the expansionary monetary policies that led to the Japanese asset price bubble of the late 1980s. The Louvre Accord was signed in 1987 to halt the continuing decline of the US Dollar.

It is unlikely that such an arrangement would have succeeded in the long run, as the global economy is too large, heterogeneous, and fluid for even the most sophisticated central banks to effectively intervene.

Louvre Accord

The Louvre Accord was signed by the then G6 (France, West Germany, Japan, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom) on February 22, 1987 in Paris, France. Italy had been an invited member, but declined to finalize the agreement. The goal of the Louvre Accord was to stabilize the international currency markets and halt the continued decline of the US Dollar caused by the Plaza Accord.