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The Shadow War: Euro vs. Dollar
The Hindu ^ | April 22, 2003 | N.S. RAJARAM

Posted on 09/18/2003 1:07:36 AM PDT by KMAJ2

Behind the war in Iraq is a struggle for economic dominance between America and Europe. A clash of civilisations is nowhere in sight.

SOME INDIAN thinkers are interpreting the U.S.-led attack on Iraq as part of the "clash of civilisations" between the "Christian" West and the Islamic world. Such facile academic theories can mislead both the public and policy makers into thinking that the world is simpler than it really is, leading to policy decisions that can have unforeseen consequences. To see this, one has only to visit another popular theory 40 years ago called the "domino effect." It held that one country becoming communist would inevitably lead to its neighbours also becoming communist. Belief in this theory led to U.S. entanglement in Vietnam the wounds of which have still not healed. One may see the clash of civilisations as the academic theory that is playing today the same role as the domino effect theory did in the Cold War era. They both offer attractive but unsound simplifications.

The ground situation today, especially after the U.S.-led attack on Iraq, gives scant support to the clash of civilisations thesis. The assumption, generally unstated, is that it is part of a conflict between the Christian' West and the Islamic world. This belief appears to be particularly strong in India and the Islamic world. It is based on the fundamental misconception that religion (Christianity) plays the same role in the West as Hinduism and Islam play in the East. The reality is that the West, Europe in particular, sees itself not as Christian but secular humanistic. Unlike Indians — both Hindus and Muslims — many of who are prepared to lay down their lives to defend their religion, it would be hard to find a handful of Europeans prepared to do so in the defence of Christianity or the Church. In accepting Huntington's clash of civilisations thesis, Indians and other Asiatics have essentially projected their own religiosity on to the people and countries of the West. Interestingly, Westerners, Americans in particular, are making the opposite mistake by applying secular humanistic measures in interpreting the deeply religious East. The fact that their contact is limited to the Westernised urban elite, which they take to be representative of the country as a whole, has only reinforced their misperceptions.

The clash of civilisations thesis also fails to explain the split within the Anglo-European block, with France and Germany opposing the U.S. policy almost as fiercely as Iraqi soldiers opposing American soldiers. Some analysts have recognised that there is an economic dimension to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which sits on oil reserves second only to Saudi Arabia's. This may be valid but it is only part of the picture: there is a deeper economic struggle that the United States is waging to preserve its economic supremacy in the world. This now has taken the form of an unseen war between the Euro and the Dollar for which Iraq has become the military beachhead. It has enormous consequences for the future of the world order.

Oil and dollar

In a recent article titled "It's not about oil or Iraq; it's about the U.S. and Europe going head-to-head on world economic dominance," the Australian economist and columnist Geoffrey Heard wrote: "Why is George Bush so hell bent on war with Iraq? Why does his administration reject every positive Iraqi move? It all makes sense when you consider the economic implications for the USA of not going to war with Iraq. The war in Iraq is actually the U.S. and Europe going head to head on economic leadership of the world."

Heard then goes on to explain how Iraq has become the unwitting battleground — "beachhead" in Heard's terminology — in this economic war following Iraq's decision to switch from dollar to euro in its oil sales. In his words: "It is about the currency used to trade oil and consequently, who will dominate the world economically, in the foreseeable future — the USA or the European Union. ...Iraq is a European Union beachhead in that confrontation. America had a monopoly on the oil trade, with the U.S. dollar being the fiat currency, but Iraq broke ranks in 1999, started to trade oil in the EU's euros, and profited. If America invades Iraq and takes over, it will hurl the EU and its euro back into the sea and make America's position as the dominant economic power in the world all but impregnable. America's allies in the invasion, Britain and Australia, are betting America will win and that they will get some trickle-down benefits for jumping on to the U.S. bandwagon." This has now come home to roost, but it calls for some appreciation of the history leading up to it.

Throughout history, some commodity or other has served as the de facto medium in world trade. Although specie' (gold and silver) has been widely exchanged as currency, the command of world trade and economy has depended on a more widely traded product. In the past, grain has been one such commodity, which made Lenin say: "Grain is the currency of currencies." This had allowed countries with food surpluses like the United States, France and Canada to exert great influence on countries with food shortages until the Green Revolution changed the equation. Well into the 18th century, cotton textiles occupied a comparable position; it was cotton that was largely responsible for the prosperity of pre-colonial India. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, Britain ensured that the Indian cotton industry was destroyed to make room for its own machine-produced textiles. Today, despite the talk of globalisation and post-information society, the commodity of exchange is oil. The world can run without computers but not without oil.

While oil serves as the commodity of exchange, a couple of historical developments ensured the dollar's dominance of the international oil trade. First, the agreement between President Franklin Roosevelt and King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia allowed the U.S. dollar to be used in oil trade; and the second, the Bretton Woods Conference established the dollar as the world standard virtually replacing gold. This allowed the U.S. to run huge deficits in both domestic expenditure and international trade. While the U.S. printed dollars to meet its fiscal obligations, countries of the world accepted dollar payments for their goods because of the dollar's value as the currency of choice for oil purchases. As a result, even while the U.S. kept losing its industrial pre-eminence, it managed to retain its economic dominance as the producer of the currency of oil trade. Further, the demand for dollars as the de facto oil currency allowed the U.S. to commit enormous resources (by absorbing deficits) to defence production making it the mightiest military power in history.

Euro's challenge

As long as the dollar remains the dominant currency, especially in oil trade, it is difficult to see how the U.S. can be dislodged from its position as the world's dominant economic power. A small crack appeared in 1999 when Iraq, at France's persuasion, agreed to accept payment for its oil in euro. At first this seemed unwise as the euro was selling well below the dollar. But now with the euro at a premium Iraq reaped a huge profit. This made other oil producers take note of Iraq's success. As Geoffery Heard noted: "Iran started thinking about switching too; Venezuela, the 4th largest oil producer, began looking at it and has been cutting out the dollar by bartering oil with several nations including America's bete noire, Cuba. Russia is seeking to ramp up oil production with Europe (trading in euros) an obvious market." It is probably not accidental that the U.S. put pressure on Iran by naming it a member of the "axis of evil," and tried also to destabilise the democratically elected Venezuelan government with the help of business interests friendly to America.

The U.S. seems belatedly to have sensed the potential threat posed by the euro. Heard observed: "The greenback's (dollar's) grip on oil trading and consequently on world trade in general, was under serious threat. If America did not stamp on this immediately, this economic brushfire could rapidly be fanned into a wildfire capable of consuming the U.S.'s economy and its dominance of world trade." This probably overstates the case, but the recent decline in the value of the dollar indicates that the threat is real. It is worth noting that the U.S. is the most indebted country in the world with domestic and international debt approaching 3.4 trillion dollars or $12,000 for each man, woman and child in America. A long term weakening of the dollar due to its slipping hold on the world oil trade can have serious consequences for American prosperity and also its capacity to finance its military expenditure through deficit financing. That is to say, the euro threatens America's economic power as well as its military power.

This may help explain why the U.S. abruptly shifted its attention from the war in Afghanistan to a major war in Iraq. Its goals, in Heard's words, are to "safeguard the American economy by returning Iraq to trading oil in U.S. dollars, so the greenback is once again the exclusive oil currency. (Also) send a very clear message to any other oil producers just what will happen to them if they do not stay in the dollar circle. ...Place the second largest reserves of oil in the world under direct American control. Provide a secular, subject state where the U.S. can maintain a huge force... to dominate the Middle East and its vital oil." The war in Iraq may be a war for oil, but at a deeper level it is a war for the defence of the continued control of the world oil economy through the dollar.

No clash of civilisations

The war in Iraq is primarily a war for economic power like any number of such wars — and in the same region — fought in the colonial times. The principal participants are also familiar, being all members of the Western civilisation if such a thing exists any more. Its horrors may arouse sectarian passions in the Islamic world, but this does not make this economic war into a civilisational war. Seeing this as a conflict between civilisations serves only to obfuscate the real issue and may lead to harmful policies. Fifty years ago, against the advice of military leaders like Field Marshal Cariappa, Nehru and Krishna Menon neglected the defence of the Northeast under the belief that China would never attack a fellow Socialist country like India for which the country paid a heavy price in 1962. To avoid repeating such mistakes Indian thinkers should formulate models and policies based on ground realities and local conditions and not accept untested theories and ideas borrowed from abroad. Even so great a leader as Mahatma Gandhi failed when he tried to make the Khilafat (restoration the Turkish Sultan) a central issue in the 1921 Non-violent Non-cooperation Movement. It led to the disastrous Moplah Rebellion and went on to sow the seeds of the Partition. The lesson we must draw is that there are no intellectual shortcuts and no substitute for independent thinking in policy formulation.

N.S. RAJARAM


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: dollar; economy; euro; europe; france; germany; iraq; oil; unitedstates; war
The story above is what you will not find told in the mainstream press.

France, Germany, Russia and China would never have gone along with the War in Iraq. No matter how long we gave the inspectors in Iraq to find WMDs, it was all a delaying tactic hoping world and US opinion would become so anti-war we could not attack. Why ? This plumbs the depths of geopolitical reality and a global economic powerplay by France and Germany (and the European Union).

In 1999, France had negotiated with Saddam to make the euro the currency for trading in Iraq oil, replacing the US dollar, with Bill Clinton's blessing under the guise of the UN Oil for Food Program. This was the overriding reason for their opposition, even more then the multi-billion dollar (euro) oil deals they made with Saddam . The US dollar has been the currency for oil since 1973, since the gold standard was dropped, so all countries seeking to buy oil had to acquire US dollars to purchase oil. For France and Germany to go along with the war would mean to lose the euro deal with Saddam. Iran was considering switching to the euro.

The impact on the US economy, were the euro to become the currency of oil, replacing the dollar, would have been devastating and brought the United States to it's knees. The dollar would have crashed and the rest of the US economy with it.

The democrats alligning themselves with these European anti-American countries would devastate this country if they had held sway in this debate. Their opposition was all about a geopolitical power grab and nothing more. They had no concern for the Iraqi people, for defeating terrorism or for enforcing the UN resolutions. For France, Germany, Russia and China it was all about diminishing the power of the United States and raising Europe, and the European Union, up as a new super power to rival or surpass the United States.

That is exactly what their opposition was all about, and the democrats and the left in this country were willing to sell this country down the river in the interest of regaining political power, because those in power on the left knew full well of this economic devastation that was looming if French and German positions had held sway.

Was that part of the motivation of Bush and the republicans ? I have no doubt it was, and thank God, he was looking out for the people of this country and their way of life and protecting our lifestyle. People the socialist left would gladly sell this country out to gain political power, because of his blind support for his ideology.

I don't expect posters from other countries to support maintaining our countries economy, I am sure they would like nothing better then to see the US brought to it's knees economically and weakened.

It is time those in the US who are arguing against the Iraq War to open their eyes and understand exactly what they are supporting, the economic destruction of their country.

That is why it is so vital we win the peace in Iraq and cannot withdraw until that is achieved. It is also why we cannot cede control of the democratization, reconstruction and rebuilding of Iraq to the UN. It is also why France and Germany have maintained their inflexible stance demanding UN control, in hopes of regaining what they lost. Russia and China are slowly acquiescing in a manner to save face for their failed opposition. Russia has taken a much more concilliatory stance in UN negotiations for a new resolution compared to France and Germany.

Geopolitics is a very complex, yet simple, underlying factor in everything that happens within the global picture. That the democrats have played, and are still playing, so fast and loose with the economic future of this country for political gain leaves me with no trust in them to lead, protect and safeguard this country and our way of life. The left likes to rant about the condition our economy is in now, if they were in power, the Great Depression would look like a minor dip.

1 posted on 09/18/2003 1:07:36 AM PDT by KMAJ2
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To: KMAJ2
What if the Saudis decide to sell oil in Euro? The way things are going it seems likely.
2 posted on 09/18/2003 1:53:44 AM PDT by ellhow
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To: KMAJ2
This article was about the silliest bunch of tripe I have read in a while on Free Republic. The war in Iraq is older than the Euro. Think about that. We have been at war in Iraq for over 12 years. Way before the Euro was ever launched. Iran is building a nuke program. It doesn't matter whether France is stilling using the Franc or not- those mullahs are trying to get their hands on nukes. All this currency conspiracy doesn't change that one iota.

One could perhaps say- "Shoring up the dominance of the dollar is a knock-on effect of trying to bring the war in Iraq to a conclusion- but to say it is the reason is just madness.

This war for the Euro/Dollar was a popular conspiracy over at Dem Underground for a while. They'll believe anything over there so it probably still is.

3 posted on 09/18/2003 2:00:04 AM PDT by Prodigal Son
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To: KMAJ2
One may see the clash of civilisations as the academic theory that is playing today the same role as the domino effect theory did in the Cold War era. They both offer attractive but unsound simplifications.

Not really.

The ground situation today, especially after the U.S.-led attack on Iraq, gives scant support to the clash of civilisations thesis. The assumption, generally unstated, is that it is part of a conflict between the Christian' West and the Islamic world. This belief appears to be particularly strong in India and the Islamic world. It is based on the fundamental misconception that religion (Christianity) plays the same role in the West as Hinduism and Islam play in the East. The reality is that the West, Europe in particular, sees itself not as Christian but secular humanistic. Unlike Indians — both Hindus and Muslims — many of who are prepared to lay down their lives to defend their religion, it would be hard to find a handful of Europeans prepared to do so in the defence of Christianity or the Church. In accepting Huntington's clash of civilisations thesis, Indians and other Asiatics have essentially projected their own religiosity on to the people and countries of the West. Interestingly, Westerners, Americans in particular, are making the opposite mistake by applying secular humanistic measures in interpreting the deeply religious East. The fact that their contact is limited to the Westernised urban elite, which they take to be representative of the country as a whole, has only reinforced their misperceptions.

Actually the West is overwhelmingly Christian, and our values are a mix of Christian and secular values. Our fight with the Islamists is about values. It is a fight about the fundamental characteristics of our civilization and theirs. To form his opinion the author has probably had too much contact with the liberal 'elite' in the West.

The clash of civilisations thesis also fails to explain the split within the Anglo-European block, with France and Germany opposing the U.S. policy almost as fiercely as Iraqi soldiers opposing American soldiers.

Wrong again. The split occurs because some in the EU (Germany and France) are actively trying to assert the EU as the core state in the West, and supplant the US in that role. Clashes are inevitable.

Some analysts have recognised that there is an economic dimension to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which sits on oil reserves second only to Saudi Arabia's. This may be valid but it is only part of the picture: there is a deeper economic struggle that the United States is waging to preserve its economic supremacy in the world. This now has taken the form of an unseen war between the Euro and the Dollar for which Iraq has become the military beachhead. It has enormous consequences for the future of the world order.

By invading and rebuilding Iraq the US may not only weaken the EU as a rival for status and economic power, but may also create a potential core state within the Arab portion of the Islamic civilization, that would then be indebted to the US. This should be built on a close alliance with the Iraqi Shias, who are a logical ally in the war against the mainly Sunni Islamofascists.

4 posted on 09/18/2003 2:05:59 AM PDT by moni kerr (Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way)
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To: ellhow
They would be under new management soon thereafter.
5 posted on 09/18/2003 2:13:57 AM PDT by Finalapproach29er ("Don't shoot Mongo, you'll only make him mad.")
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To: KMAJ2
Bump-great post!
6 posted on 09/18/2003 2:19:49 AM PDT by Caipirabob (Democrats.. Socialists..Commies..Traitors...Who can tell the difference?)
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To: Caipirabob
LOL. Great post?

Iraqi Liberation Act- 1998

Saddam switches to Euro- 1999

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I don't know about the poulty question but the official policy of our gov't has been to take Saddam out since 1998- before he switched to the Euro. If the author's premise were true, the article might make a little bit of sense (ignoring some intellectual gaffs that are peppered throughout the article for a moment), but if his initial premise is demonstrably false, the whole thing is a bunch of hogwash.

7 posted on 09/18/2003 2:33:29 AM PDT by Prodigal Son
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To: KMAJ2
This author did a lot of talking but he gave no proof.

He just said that Iraq was where the confrontation between the euro and the dollar broke out into an open fight.

That isn't exactly convincing.
8 posted on 09/18/2003 2:34:46 AM PDT by xzins
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To: KMAJ2
This author did a lot of talking but he gave no proof.

He just said that Iraq was where the confrontation between the euro and the dollar broke out into an open fight.

That isn't exactly convincing.
9 posted on 09/18/2003 2:37:01 AM PDT by xzins
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To: KMAJ2
Like I've said before, the war with Iraq was about a lot of little things which all added up to one big benefit for the United States. Put simply, aside from a bit of a public relations hit, there really aren't many negatives to this war.

The military victory was easy, and while there's an extreemly minor geurella war in-progress it's about as low-intensity as you can possibly get. In exchange we get a military base on the border of every state sponsor of terrorism for the next few years, a guaranteed oil supply, the benefit to the dollar as expressed in this article, a reminder of who the big boy on the block is to all the tin-pot dictators in the region, and maybe the biggest bonus of all, the removal of a really attrocious dictator and the iraqi people joining the modern, civilized world.
10 posted on 09/18/2003 3:13:24 AM PDT by pcx99
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To: KMAJ2
The theory that the US invaded Iraq to stop their switch from the dollar to the euro and, in the long run, to stop a similar switch by OPEC from the dollar to the euro, is the biggest load of garbage I've ever heard. It doesn't make sense and can't even be done by OPEC because it's a market issue. Moreover, it doesn't make sense to the countries that currently trade oil in dollars. The article below is from OPEC and explains the issue and how OPEC won't be changing anytime soon. It completely destroys the idea that the Bush administration has engaged in a huge conspiracy by engaging in a war to save the dollar. Plus, it's just plain silly.

The Choice of Currency for the Denomination of the Oil Bill

by Mr Javad Yarjani, Head, Petroleum Market Analysis Dept
The International Role of the Euro (Invited by the Spanish Minister
of Economic Affairs during Spain’s Presidency of the EU)
April 14, 2002, Oviedo, Spain





Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to begin by thanking the Spanish Minister of Economic Affairs, His Excellency Rodrigo Rato Figueredo, for inviting me in my capacity as the OPEC Secretary General to participate in this timely seminar on The International Role of the Euro. Since 1999 the euro has become a reality and starting this year it has become legal tender in the 12 countries of the Euro-zone. Now more than 300 million people use the single currency, which signals a positive step for European economic integration. With this in mind, I would like to speak today on The Choice of Currency for the Denomination of the Oil Bill. I would also like to wish Spain every success for its remaining time in holding the Presidency of the European Union.

First of all, let me take the opportunity to congratulate the European Union for its successful transition to the euro, from its twelve different currencies. Everyone was pleasantly surprised at how smooth and swift the switchover took place, considering it involved the largest currency swap undertaken in history. The question that comes to mind is whether the euro will establish itself in world financial markets, thus challenging the supremacy of the US dollar, and consequently trigger a change in the dollar’s dominance in oil markets. As we all know, the mighty dollar has reigned supreme since 1945, and in the last few years has even gained more ground with the economic dominance of the United States, a situation that may not change in the near future. By the late 90s, more than four-fifths of all foreign exchange transactions, and half of all world exports, were denominated in dollars. In addition, the US currency accounts for about two thirds of all official exchange reserves. The world’s dependency on US dollars to pay for trade has seen countries bound to dollar reserves, which are disproportionally higher than America’s share in global output. The share of the dollar in the denomination of world trade is also much higher than the share of the US in world trade.

Having said that, it is worthwhile to note that in the long run the euro is not at such a disadvantage versus the dollar when one compares the relative sizes of the economies involved, especially given the EU enlargement plans. Moreover, the Euro-zone has a bigger share of global trade than the US and while the US has a huge current account deficit, the euro area has a more, or balanced, external accounts position. One of the more compelling arguments for keeping oil pricing and payments in dollars has been that the US remains a large importer of oil, despite being a substantial crude producer itself. However, looking at the statistics of crude oil exports, one notes that the Euro-zone is an even larger importer of oil and petroleum products than the US.

However, while the euro has the potential to be a viable competitor and possible alternative to the dollar in international financial and commodity markets in the medium to long term, its external weakness to date has meant it has been unable to gain inroads in the last two years. From the time the euro was floated in January 1999, the currency drifted downwards, losing by October 2000 about 30 per cent of its initial value against the dollar. It has since regained some of this lost ground, but is still far removed from parity with the dollar and even further removed from its starting value. Many reasons have been suggested to explain the weakness of the euro in the last two years, but they all overlook the fact that a fledgling currency needs time to establish itself and gain credibility even under the best internal and external conditions. There is of course also the issue of the economic diversity within the countries of the European Union to consider. Many fundamental structural issues need to be addressed and many steps taken in order to harmonise the economies of the countries within the Euro-zone. One can appreciate that the European Central Bank has a serious challenge, and indeed a difficult task, to adopt one policy to fit all countries facing different immediate requirements and various structural problems. It could be that the euro will be subjected for quite some time to more scrutiny than the dollar, because of the diversity of its region, which may give the established greenback an additional temporary edge over its new competitor.

It must also be recalled that the links between crude oil and the dollar are deeply embedded in economics, politics and trading traditions. Naturally, the trading of oil in dollars has served the interests of the US, giving it an immediate advantage over other countries because it carries no currency exchange risk. For most other oil consumers around the world, the pricing and payment of crude in dollars increases the risk for these countries because of currency fluctuations. When the dollar rises against other currencies, the price of oil is more expensive for the rest of the world, thus potentially increasing inflation in these countries.

Despite this, let us examine some of the issues surrounding the denomination of the oil bill, with the euro in mind. Firstly, it is good to note that oil producers and big crude consumers, and importers from non-dollar areas, like the EU, have common interests. They are both interested not only in stability of oil prices and a reduction in price volatility but also in the stable currencies. In other words, they would like to minimize oil price risk and currency risk. Producers and consumers may differ as to the desired oil price level, although I think they are probably not so far apart on that question, but they would both easily agree that currency risk is undesirable. From the EU’s point of view, it is clear that Europe would prefer to see payments for oil shift from the dollar to the euro, which effectively removes the currency risk. It would also increase the demand for the euro and thus help to raise its value. Moreover, since oil is such an important commodity in global trade, in terms of value, if the pricing of oil were to shift to the euro, it could provide a boost to the global acceptability of the single currency. There are also very strong trade links between OPEC Member Countries (MCs) and the Euro-zone, with more than 45 per cent of total merchandise imports of OPEC MCs coming from the countries of the Euro-zone, while OPEC MCs are main suppliers of oil and crude oil products to Europe.

From the point of view of producers, OPEC MCs are mainly interested in a currency that provides a stable store of value for their revenues. At various points in time since the early 1970s, oil producers have discussed the currency denomination of the oil bill, especially in periods when the dollar has been weak. Opinions have tended to be wide and ranging, depending on the strategic and trade alliances certain OPEC Members have with particular trade blocs. But in recent years, the strength of the dollar has helped OPEC in cushioning some of the erosion in the value of the oil barrel.

Now let us turn to two main issues. One relates to the denomination of crude oil pricing in dollars and the other to the choice of currency for the oil bill. Oil is a globally traded commodity and the present pricing system is one in which OPEC crude oil prices are calculated based on formulas derived from marker crudes like Brent, WTI or Dubai, all of which are denominated in dollars in international oil markets. The whole system of global oil trading and hedging is built around the dollar, and there appears to be little chance of change to another currency in the near future.

Of major importance to the ultimate success of the euro, in terms of the oil pricing, will be if Europe's two major oil producers — the United Kingdom and Norway join the single currency. Naturally, the future integration of these two countries into the Euro-zone and Europe will be important considering they are the region’s two major oil producers in the North Sea, which is home to the international crude oil benchmark, Brent. This might create a momentum to shift the oil pricing system to euros. However, from today’s perspective, even after the UK joins the single currency, there would seem to be little incentive for London’s International Petroleum Exchange (IPE), where Brent is traded, to switch its Brent crude oil and gas oil contracts to euros, since both are traded internationally and the dollar is at the centre of a complex global oil trading and hedging system. There is more chance that the IPE will consider changing its natural gas and power contracts to euros. With respect to petroleum products, it appears that here the euro may make some inroads. Within the Euro-zone, petroleum products to the final consumer are now sold in euros, highlighting the disparity in final product prices within the EU. At present the only spot market that has adopted the euro is the Hamburg barge market, which previously used Deutschmarks.

So what is the OPEC position on this critical questions? Can the Organization consider switching its crude oil pricing from dollars to euros? Or will a basket of currencies be used?

Because crude oil contracts are currently traded in dollars, and the prices of OPEC crudes are determined by using complex formulas derived from marker crudes, such as Brent and WTI, there is not much the Organization can do unilaterally until, and unless, there is a switch of denomination in these markets. OPEC has no control over the quotations of these marker crudes, whereas, in the past the Organization did set the official selling prices. That has all changed with the introduction of market-related prices which saw the system change from a seller’s to a buyer’s market, or at least where market forces now dictate prices. Moreover, the entire infrastructure of the oil market has been based around the dollar, and that will be hard to displace. However, as previously mentioned, a lot depends on Britain and Norway in determining what their level of EU integration will be, and whether their marker crude, Brent, could be traded in euros.

The other question, of course, is whether importers can pay for oil in another currency than the dollar. The EU would like to pay for the oil bill in euros. The question is now whether oil producers would be willing to accept euros instead of dollars and who carries the implied currency risk, since prices are set in dollars but payment is made in euros.

If OPEC MCs were to accept to denominate the oil bill in euros, it would be desirable if the buyers would carry some of the currency risk, or alternatively if both the seller and the buyer would perhaps share the risk. Currency clauses could be introduced in sales contracts that specify these issues. The use of financial hedging tools to manage the currency risk could be envisaged, with the cost of hedging shared between buyer and seller.

In the short-term, OPEC MCs, with possibly a few exceptions, are expected to continue to accept payment in dollars. Nevertheless, I believe that OPEC will not discount entirely the possibility of adopting euro pricing and payments in the future. The Organization, like many other financial houses at present, is also assessing how the euro will settle into its life as a new currency. The critical question for market players is the overall value and stability of the euro, and whether other countries within the Union will adopt the single currency.

It must be remembered that OPEC is comprised of eleven sovereign Member Countries, all with varying preferences as to the denomination of the oil bill. These preferences depend on which markets in the world the OPEC crude is destined for and from which countries OPEC imports goods and services. For example, countries that trade mainly with Asia or North America have little advantage of pricing oil in euros. Equally, countries with large assets in dollars would have little interest in changing the current system. Alternatively, there are other OPEC MCs that conduct most of their trade with Europe, which would be more likely to favour pricing in euros.

It is quite possible that as the bilateral trade increases between the Middle East and the European Union, it could be feasible to price oil in euros considering Europe is the main economic partner of that region. This would foster further ties between these trading blocs by increasing commercial exchange, and by helping attract much-needed European investment to the Middle East.

In the long-term, perhaps one question that comes to mind is could a dual system operate simultaneously? Could one pricing system apply to the Western Hemisphere in dollars and for the rest of the world in euros? This will remain the test for the euro, should the currency gain ground in the market of oil transactions.

An increased level of international trade, if undertaken in euros, will help determine the value of the currency. Essentially, increased trade in euros, associated with a rise in the value of the currency, would also encourage people to view it as a safe bet in terms of savings, or as a store of value. For the euro to emerge as a serious competitor to the US dollar, it would need to replace or parallel the dollar as the currency of choice for hard currency reserves. In addition, it will be the financial and trading institutions that will also determine the speed of the euro’s integration into world markets.

The global competition between the euro and the dollar will evolve in the future depending on many factors. Essentially, a strong, and therefore attractive euro to hold, will ultimately depend on a robust and stable European political and economic system. The more integrated Europe becomes, the greater the likelihood that it will play an increasingly active role in world economic and political affairs and the more confidence its currency will inspire. As the share of reserves held by central banks begins to reflect the share of the euro in world trade, there will be a chance for the single currency to gain ground in the denomination of commodity trading as well as being used as a means of payments and a store of value. However, one should also be aware that the dollar now benefits from its status as an incumbent currency and that the forces of entropy are expected to lend support to the US currency versus the euro. This was the case for the pound sterling long after the UK had lost its economic supremacy. Moreover, confidence in the US economy remains unrivalled, despite the recent slowdown. This level of optimism could mean that capital and investment flows to America will remain strong, from Europe as well.

Projecting ahead, the largest proportion of future incremental oil growth will come from developing countries as they realise their developmental goals. The projected economic growth in developing countries will be oil-intensive. This fact may have a bearing on the currency, or currencies, that OPEC MCs may individually or collectively choose for future currency denomination of the oil bill, depending on the preferences of both buyers and sellers.

One last point deserves to be mentioned. We are experiencing a phase in the oil market where OPEC and other market players are revisiting the issue of the marker crudes. Serious thinking is going into seeking alternatives to the present marker crudes that would be more representative and that would reflect the reality of the underlying physical market. In the coming years the present marker crudes may become less and less representative and more liable to manipulation and squeezes due to smaller volumes of production. While it is too early to talk of alternatives with any degree of precision and still even earlier to speculate about the currency in which it will be denominated, it is good to remember that some changes in the way we conduct the oil business will become inevitable in the coming years and we must prepare for them.

In these interesting times, the possibilities that may result from the launching of the euro remain to be seen. Essentially, OPEC is concerned with delivering fair and stable prices to consumers. The underlying imbalances in the existing system as to the denomination of the oil bill could be ironed out partially with the inclusion of other currencies in the trade of oil. Ultimately, for every scenario that may emerge, there is a note of caution, and that is oil market stability should not be jeopardised or threatened in any way. The existing oil pricing and payments system, despite its known deficiencies, is a system that functions smoothly. Should the euro challenge the dollar in strength, which essentially could include it in the denomination of the oil bill, it could be that a system may emerge which benefits more countries in the long-term. Perhaps with increased European integration and a strong European economy, this may become a reality. Time may be on your side. I wish the euro every success.
11 posted on 09/18/2003 4:51:26 AM PDT by ChuckShick (Palast is a clown)
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To: KMAJ2
As long as the dollar remains the dominant currency, especially in oil trade, it is difficult to see how the U.S. can be dislodged from its position as the world's dominant economic power. A small crack appeared in 1999 when Iraq, at France's persuasion, agreed to accept payment for its oil in euro.

War in Iraq an expensive way to protect the "free" trade?

12 posted on 09/18/2003 5:02:10 AM PDT by A. Pole
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To: Willie Green; Wolfie; ex-snook; Cacophonous; Jhoffa_; FITZ; arete; FreedomPoster; bwteim; ...
Bretton Woods Conference established the dollar as the world standard virtually replacing gold. This allowed the U.S. to run huge deficits in both domestic expenditure and international trade. While the U.S. printed dollars to meet its fiscal obligations, countries of the world accepted dollar payments for their goods because of the dollar's value as the currency of choice for oil purchases. As a result, even while the U.S. kept losing its industrial pre-eminence, it managed to retain its economic dominance as the producer of the currency of oil trade.

"Free" trade bump.

13 posted on 09/18/2003 5:05:11 AM PDT by A. Pole
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To: pcx99
In exchange we get a military base on the border of every state sponsor of terrorism for the next few years...

I feel this is key. Iraq is the new Germany. We now have heavy armor within a days ride of any major conflict in the area. No more long, drawn out, 6 month build ups, or sucking up to terrorist sponsering nations.

We have in effect enhanced our own freedom.

14 posted on 09/18/2003 5:07:52 AM PDT by NeonKnight
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Funny how the consensus of the world strategists on this board wavers between haughtiness and paranoia: the EU and the Euro is either a ridiculous experiment bound to fail or the biggest threat to US position on the globe since metric rulers.
How difficult to grasp is it the EU and the Euro is neither of that?
15 posted on 09/18/2003 5:25:20 AM PDT by stck
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To: KMAJ2
This article is ridiculous.

From the first paragraph, the author claims that the domino theory was only a theory, somehow forgetting that with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia became Communist. That from 1945 to about 1989, no country that became Communist removed Communism.

Next, the Euro. Absolutely irrelevant what currency Iraq uses. Because the world price of oil was in dollars. So if Oil sells for $30 per barrel, and there are $1.25 dollars per Euro, then Iraq is going to get EUR 24 per barrel. If the Euro appreciates, then Iraq gets more dollars. But they could have achieved the same by simply converting dollar receipts for oil into Euros. They didn't make a killing because the Euro appreciated or depreciated: they made a killing because the price of oil went up. If Iraq were selling oil that was above the world market price, no one would buy it. If they were selling oil below the market price, speculators would buy from Iraq and sell on the world market. And speculators know how to do currency swaps.

The USD/EUR situation would only come into effect if all countries started using the EUR for the oil spot price. Then the US consumer would be susceptible to price swings. But because one country does it means nothing.

16 posted on 09/18/2003 6:10:44 AM PDT by Koblenz (There's usually a free market solution)
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To: KMAJ2
This article is absolute nonsense. The Indians are our friends, since they are also infidels, but they're rants are almost as crazy as those coming from the arab world.

I have a thousand barrels of oil for sale. I will sell them for whatever the current quote is for that grade of oil in US dollars. I will gladly accept euros or yen or pounds or any other freely convertible currency, as long as I can convert that currency to the same amount of US dollars. I would accept the equivalent amount of live hogs, as long as I could convert them, easily, to any freely acceptable currency.

17 posted on 09/18/2003 6:27:49 AM PDT by Former Proud Canadian
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To: A. Pole
Right on that quoted selection. The Bretton Woods tossing off of the gold standard has hollowed out the US like some old Sycamore -- great and majestic looking, a beatiful bark and foliage, yet the inside is emptied and whatever core is left is rotted. The grand old tree is about to be toppled over by some mucho Knot gusts of a li'l ol' storm.

The TREE that falls is not the Constitutional Republic, however. Not the United States of America.

Let's just call it the "snake skin" being shed.

Liberty or Death. Victory or Death.

May Providence grant that we shall have both Liberty and Victory, so that we keep Justice and Peace in the world.

Welcome to the rough beginnings of the, new, mature America.

18 posted on 09/18/2003 9:13:38 AM PDT by bvw
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To: Former Proud Canadian
The Indians are our friends,

They are not enemies of the USA but I would hardly call them "friends".

19 posted on 09/18/2003 11:30:26 AM PDT by thtr
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To: Prodigal Son
If you read my comments carefully, you would have seen I never said it was the only reason, nor did I say it was the main reason for the US in the war. What I did say is it was an underlying reason for French and German opposition to the War in Iraq, along with the billions of dollars in contracts they had signed with Saddam.

I posted the full article because I did not want to be accused of taking anything out of context, but my focus was on the Euro vs Dollar and it's economic impact, which was the focus of the middle part of the article.
20 posted on 09/18/2003 5:28:01 PM PDT by KMAJ2 (Freedom not defended is freedom relinquished, liberty not fought for is liberty lost.)
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To: thtr
I was referring to the present situation. Unless you are a moslem, it seems, you are an infidel. The Hindu's and the Christians are both infidels.
21 posted on 09/18/2003 7:40:54 PM PDT by Former Proud Canadian
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To: bvw
The TREE that falls is not the Constitutional Republic, however. Not the United States of America.

Uh, let's hope not, but the same crazies who voted for Gore and want to declare the Clinton's Co-Presidents of the World...will be literally food-rioting when the economy collapses. Don't count on any shred of patriotic feeling or concern for their country. They will do what they always do. Be purely selfish for themselves and whatever 'class' they belong to, in the most egregious way, and then rationalize it as the 'right thing to do'. Meanwhile China's military will not be idle. Nor the Mexican's not-so-slow invasion of California.

22 posted on 09/19/2003 12:09:34 PM PDT by Paul Ross (A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one!-A. Hamilton)
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