A fixed exchange rate is a system in which a government or central bank ties its official currency exchange rate to another currency or the price of gold. this system aims to maintain the value of the country’s currency within a specific range. Fixed exchange rates offer certainty to exporters and importers and help control inflation. However, they can limit a central bank’s ability to adjust interest rates and may lead to parallel unofficial exchange rates. Understanding the history and advantages of fixed exchange rates is crucial for financial stability and trade. Learn more in this comprehensive guide.
What is a fixed exchange rate?
A fixed exchange rate is a regime applied by a government or central bank that ties the country’s official currency exchange rate to another country’s currency or the price of gold. The purpose of a fixed exchange rate system is to keep a currency’s value within a narrow band.
Understanding a fixed exchange rate
Fixed rates provide greater certainty for exporters and importers. Fixed rates also help the government maintain low inflation, which, in the long run, keeps interest rates down and stimulates trade and investment.
Most major industrialized nations have had floating exchange rate systems, where the going price on the foreign exchange market (forex) sets its currency price. This practice began for these nations in the early 1970s while developing economies continue with fixed-rate systems.
From the end of World War II to the early 1970s, the Bretton Woods Agreement meant that the exchange rates of participating nations were pegged to the value of the U.S. dollar, which was fixed to the price of gold.
When the United States’ postwar balance of payments surplus turned to a deficit in the 1950s and 1960s, the periodic exchange rate adjustments permitted under the agreement ultimately proved insufficient. In 1973, President Richard Nixon removed the United States from the gold standard, ushering in the era of floating rates.
The beginnings of the monetary union
The European exchange rate mechanism (ERM) was established in 1979 as a precursor to monetary union and the introduction of the euro. Member nations, including Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy, agreed to maintain their currency rates within plus or minus 2.25% of a central point.
The United Kingdom joined in October 1990 at an excessively strong conversion rate and was forced to withdraw two years later. The original members of the euro converted from their home currencies at their then-current ERM central rate as of Jan. 1, 1999. The euro itself trades freely against other major currencies while the currencies of countries hoping to join trade in a managed float known as ERM II.
Disadvantages of fixed exchange rates
Developing economies often use a fixed-rate system to limit speculation and provide a stable system. A stable system allows importers, exporters, and investors to plan without worrying about currency moves.
However, a fixed-rate system limits a central bank’s ability to adjust interest rates as needed for economic growth. A fixed-rate system also prevents market adjustments when a currency becomes over or undervalued. Effective management of a fixed-rate system also requires a large pool of reserves to support the currency when it is under pressure.
An unrealistic official exchange rate can also lead to the development of a parallel, unofficial, or dual, exchange rate. A large gap between official and unofficial rates can divert hard currency away from the central bank, which can lead to forex shortages and periodic large devaluations. These can be more disruptive to an economy than the periodic adjustment of a floating exchange rate regime.
Real-world example of a fixed exchange rate
In 2018, according to BBC News, Iran set a fixed exchange rate of 42,000 rials to the dollar, after losing 8% against the dollar in a single day. The government decided to remove the discrepancy between the rate traders used—60,000 rials—and the official rate, which, at the time, was 37,000.
Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.
- Provide greater certainty for exporters and importers.
- Help the government maintain low inflation.
- Stimulate trade and investment.
- Limit a central bank’s ability to adjust interest rates for economic growth.
- Prevent market adjustments when a currency becomes over or undervalued.
- May lead to parallel unofficial exchange rates.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the primary goal of a fixed exchange rate system?
The primary goal of a fixed exchange rate system is to maintain the stability of a country’s currency value within a specific range.
How do fixed exchange rates affect international trade?
Fixed exchange rates can provide greater certainty for international trade, as exporters and importers know the exact value of their transactions in terms of foreign currencies. This stability can stimulate trade and investment.
What are the disadvantages of a fixed exchange rate system?
Disadvantages of a fixed exchange rate system include limitations on a central bank’s ability to adjust interest rates for economic growth, the prevention of market adjustments when a currency becomes over or undervalued, and the potential development of parallel unofficial exchange rates.
What are the key factors that influence a government’s decision to adopt fixed exchange rates?
A government’s decision to adopt fixed exchange rates is influenced by various factors, including economic stability, the desire to attract foreign investment, and the need to provide certainty for international trade. Governments also consider their currency’s historical performance and the impact on their balance of payments when making this decision.
Can a country change from a fixed exchange rate system to a floating exchange rate system, and vice versa?
Yes, countries can transition between fixed and floating exchange rate systems. Such a shift typically involves a well-thought-out policy decision, often driven by economic and financial considerations. Governments may decide to move from a fixed exchange rate system to a floating one to gain more flexibility in managing their currency or vice versa to provide greater stability.
How do fixed exchange rates impact foreign direct investment (FDI) in a country?
Fixed exchange rates can attract foreign direct investment (FDI) because they provide a stable environment for businesses to operate in. When investors are confident that the value of their investments won’t be significantly affected by currency fluctuations, they are more likely to commit funds to the country. However, a sudden change in the fixed rate can disrupt FDI flows.
- A fixed exchange rate ties a country’s official currency exchange rate to another currency or the price of gold.
- This system aims to keep a currency’s value stable within a narrow range.
- Fixed exchange rates provide certainty for international trade and help control inflation.
- However, they can limit a central bank’s ability to adjust interest rates and may lead to parallel unofficial exchange rates.
View Article Sources
- international monetary systems – University of Colorado
- Fixed or Floating Exchange Rates? – United States Agency for International Development
- the effect of fixed exchange rates on monetary policy – Federal Reserve System
- Currencies: The Complete SuperMoney Library – SuperMoney