Only a handful of currencies are regularly used for cross-border payments: the euro, the yen, the pound, the yuan and, of course, the US dollar, which dominates almost any measure of international use. But how does a currency achieve an international status in the first place? And which government policies assist in that jump-start? Economic theory and the rise of the renminbi (RMB) in the last decade offer some clues.
The US dollar has a dominant role in the international financial system. The fact that trade and cross-border investment are overwhelmingly dollar-denominated means that non-US banks are heavily reliant on dollar funding (Aldasoro and Ehlers (2018)). This funding dried up during the Covid-19 epidemic, prompting the use of central bank swap lines as a policy response. This post looks at recent research on why dollar funding dried up in March, the efficacy of swap lines and the implications for cross-border banking, exchange rates and the international financial system.