Government strategy: Is Biden staffing up for currency war with China and the Eurozone?

Last Friday, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced that the head of its markets group, Daleep Singh, has resigned to join the Biden administration as both Deputy National Security Advisor and Deputy National Economic Advisor. This is the second prominent Biden administration choice being asked to sit in what apparently are two different policy realms: foreign and domestic. Dr. Susan Rice, who is an expert in foreign affairs, is currently Mr Biden’s assistant for domestic policy and chair of the domestic policy council in Mr Biden’s absence.

Mr Biden reportedly thinks of domestic and foreign policy as one and the same. One of the holdovers from the Trump administration is the focus on China. Mr Biden has expressed that China should expect “extreme competition” from the United States while emphasizing that there is room for accord without conflict. Mr Biden has signaled that avoiding conflict during intense competition may require falling back on existing international law.

Mr Biden’s China agenda will require buy-in from the American public. American manufacturers and farmers in particular were directly impacted by the Trump administration’s tariff war with China. Mr Biden will need a domestic policy agenda that gets Americans on board with his China initiative while crafting a policy agenda towards China that reflects benefits in the American domestic economy.

The currency portion of the foreign agenda toward China for now does not include a currency war. At the outset of her tenure Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen signaled that the US would abandon any remnant of the “strong dollar” policy favored by the Trump administration preferring instead to allow the market to determine currency rates. The dollar’s overall steady weakening in currency markets makes its domestically produced goods more attractive to foreign importers, a weakening not due to any market intervention on the part of the United States. In theory this makes domestically produced items more attractive price wise to US taxpayers and makes imports from foreign nations i.e. China, more expensive.

Secretary Yellen will be receiving direct messaging from the Executive Office of the President on China and likely on currency issues. Ms Yellen, as Treasury secretary, is a member of the National Security Council for which Mr Singh will now have a high staff role. Mr Singh has extensive experience in the area of foreign exchange having focused on U.S. interest rates and the currency markets for the better part of eight years when he was with Goldman Sachs. Secretary Yellen is also a member of the Domestic Policy Council where Dr. Rice will serve as chairman when Mr Biden is not present.

The government strategy takeaway here is to pay additional attention to the messaging from the national security council and the domestic policy council and ascertaining whether messages out of the Executive Office of the President and the Treasury Department are in sync when it comes to the US’ stance on currency markets.