Abe Ally Yamamoto Says Currency Devaluation Spurs Growth

Japanese ruling party lawmaker Kozo Yamamoto said a race to devalue currencies would spark global growth, dismissing German criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans for monetary easing which have weakened the yen.

Yamamoto, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party who is close to Abe, said in an interview yesterday that an exchange rate of 95-100 yen to the dollar would be appropriate. The yen has fallen almost 10 percent against its U.S. counterpart since Abe’s LDP won a landslide victory on Dec. 16.

Abe has pushed the Bank of Japan to increase monetary stimulus to overcome more than a decade of deflation. While his administration argues the yen’s fall is a consequence, not a target of his policies, the decline has sparked criticism from German officials including Michael Meister, the parliamentary finance spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party.

There is “no problem at all” with the yen falling because of monetary easing, Yamamoto said, citing the research of Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs and Koichi Hamada, an emeritus professor at Yale who is an economic adviser to Abe. “It contributes to the stability of the entire economy and to growth,” he said.

The yen weakened after publication of Yamamoto’s comments, before resuming gains to trade 0.4 percent higher at 92.46 per dollar as of 1:11 p.m. in Tokyo.

Germany’s Meister expressed concern in a Jan. 22 interview, saying that competitive devaluation could “create a spiral that hurts us all.” Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann have also criticized Abe’s policies.

Yen’s Equilibrium

“If they think Japan has gone too far, then they should try it themselves,” said Yamamoto. “That’s what a floating exchange rate system is for.”

Kazumasa Iwata, a potential candidate to replace Masaaki Shirakawa as BOJ governor when he steps down next month, yesterday said an exchange rate of between 90 yen and 100 yen to the dollar would mark a return to equilibrium.

“That’s about right,” Yamamoto said. “I would say about 95 yen to 100 yen.”

Yamamoto is one of the strongest proponents of monetary easing in the ruling LDP. In 2011, he formed a group with Abe as chairman which aimed at having the BOJ buy bonds issued to fund reconstruction after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster. After the group failed in its aims, the two continued to collaborate in study groups on monetary policy.

The law guaranteeing the BOJ’s independence may need to be changed to achieve Abe’s inflation goals, Yamamoto added. The central bank, which last month adopted a 2 percent inflation target without a deadline, yesterday refrained from adding additional stimulus.

“They have the 2 percent target, but the BOJ is not committed to achieving it and there’s no time limit, so it’s unfinished and it’s not real,” he said.

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