Bernanke to castigate China for continuing its currency games
WASHINGTON — Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, plans to argue Friday that a “two-speed global recovery,” with the richest countries lagging behind fast-growing emerging markets like China and India, is hampering the cooperation needed for worldwide economic expansion.
Bernanke is expected to say that currency undervaluation by countries with a surplus, like China, is causing imbalances in global growth and trade. This is a main point the Obama administration made — with limited success — when leaders of the Group of 20 economic powers gathered last week in South Korea.
The Fed released Thursday the prepared text of the speech Bernanke is scheduled to deliver Friday at a European Central Bank conference in Frankfurt, Germany, along with accompanying remarks that he plans to deliver as part of a panel discussion there.
For the past two weeks, the Fed has been criticized for its Nov. 3 decision to inject $600 billion into the banking system through June, resuming an effort to lower long-term interest rates.
Those attacks continued Thursday. Speakers at a conference here, organized by the libertarian Cato Institute, warned that the Fed’s expansionary monetary policy could lead to asset-price bubbles like the housing boom that crashed in 2007.
Bernanke’s speech argues that U.S. unemployment is at “unacceptable” levels, and it gingerly wades into the fiscal policy debate roiling Washington.
“In general terms, a fiscal program that combines near-term measures to enhance growth and strong, confidence-inducing steps to reduce longer-term structural deficits would be an important complement to the policies of the Federal Reserve,” Bernanke will say.
He does not plan, however, to express a view on extending the Bush-era tax cuts, the most contentious fiscal policy choice facing the White House and the lame-duck Congress.
Even so, by defending the Fed’s actions, calling for global rebalancing and hinting that more fiscal stimulus might be needed, Bernanke’s remarks amount to an endorsement of crucial elements of President Barack Obama’s economic approach.
But that endorsement, in turn, could further stoke criticism by congressional Republicans, who say the Fed is defying voters’ skepticism about large-scale government intervention in the economy and setting the stage for inflation down the road, and by foreign officials, who fear the Fed is trying to weaken the dollar to make U.S. exports more competitive.
Bernanke, a Republican economist who was first appointed by George W. Bush, will reiterate his argument that the Fed felt compelled to act because inflation is so low (about half of the Fed’s target of roughly 2 percent) and unemployment so high (stuck at nearly 10 percent for the past 18 months or so).