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Monday, April 5, 2010

Ride The Asian Tigers

The winds of recession and financial woes are blowing and America's strategic position is in peril.A period of relative peace the world enjoyed from World War 2 up to the 90's wasn't due to America's military might. Squabbles over markets, expansion of empires to build markets, prowling for resources and raw materials had plunged the world into world wars.Following the last war America began to stand up for and encouraged a world that respected sovereignty,a culture which rewarded work and fair exchange of goods and services.The Europeans were pressured to de-colonise and GATT was established alongside a stable system of currency exchange.These actions led to huge growth in world trade,finance and banking.Through the 50's and 60's the US was the dynamo that hastened economic development and many countries bloomed from US investments. By the early 1970's South East Asia became seething with it's own economic engines and the word 'tigers' was coined .These economic waves changed the views of other nations.China which used to be a spoiler slowly realised that closed doors for her would only lead to stagnation and financial backwaters.Much of the Third World began to rethink their policies.Once infatuated with socialism more and more Third World nations began to open their doors to trade and investment.Thus the US became a catalyst for these countries to slowly move towards modern societies with technological and other skills.But concerned voices out of Washington have been decrying trade imbalance, job losses, budget deficits and a clamour to put up barriers to America's markets.This would be fatal and halt the advancement of the free-market oriented developing nations.It would signal that the model provided through the 50's and 60's that made for peace and growth is no longer an available option and trigger a downward spiral of the world economy.Is America to abandon the contest between free market democracies versus controlled and alternate ideologies? This will have disquieting consequences for the rest of the world.For sixty years peace and political boundaries were possible because peoples have achieved a better lot through trade.If these opportunities are choked a return to the traditional ways of conquest such as by war becomes more attractive.Protectionism and dwindling trade means less growth for the developing countries.National debts will pile up, defaults will become common with heavy consequences for the international banking system. Developing countries may abandon democratic freedoms and severe and repressive governments may ride in.America has been the anchor of the of the world's free-market economies.It is encumbent upon America as the pre-eminent powerhouse to rein the rules for progress and growth and not to put up tariff and other walls as these would then cause others to retaliate similarly and thus force a replay of past depressions and even a return to wars to settle things.

Commercially an inward looking approach can cause the US billions of dollars per annum particularly as the countries of South East Asia which have come to be called the Asian Tigers embrace every sphere of activity that used to be the domain of the US only. Asian governments hold up to 40% of the world's total foreign exchange reserves with the bulk of them in U.S.-dollar assets.But with the emergence of the euro things can change dramatically.Some nations ,especially China have begun to switch their reserves from the US dollar to the euro.Estimates have it that up to 1 trillion could migrate from the dollar to the euro.Consider Europe's ambitions to a global role commensurate with it's economic clout it wouldn't be long when a huge chunk of the world's reserves will be in euro.This European single currency is creating a huge new capital market of great significance for Asia.Fund raising,mergers,acquisitions and corporate refocussing doors have suddenly come flung open and which Asia feels would be foolish to ignore.

For the man in the street in America one door of abundance and prosperity is to look to Asia instead of wrapping oneself up with the bandages of every financial prescription back home.

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Cally Rao

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