Saudi Arabia’s move away from the petrodollar is yet another sign of the U.S. government’s diminishing influence and power. From Ryan McMaken at mises.org:
On January 17, the Saudi minister of finance, Mohammed Al-Jadaan, announced that the Saudi state is open to selling oil in currencies other than the dollar. “There are no issues with discussing how we settle our trade arrangements, whether it is in the US dollar, whether it is the euro, whether it is the Saudi riyal,” Al-Jadaan told Bloomberg TV.
If the Saudi regime does indeed embrace substantial trade in currencies other than the dollar as part of its oil-export business, this would signal a shift away from the dollar as the dominant currency in global oil payments. Or measured another way, this would signal the end of the so-called petrodollar.
But how large of a shift is this? With the increasingly frequent Saudi comments about trading in nondollar currencies, we’ve also seen an increasing number of pundits announcing the “collapse” of the dollar or the imminent implosion of the dollar’s currently outsized global power.
Will a shift away from the dollar in the global oil trade really lead to a big relative decline in the dollar? Probably and eventually. But a number of other dominoes would need to fall first, most especially the domino we call “Eurodollars.”
On the other hand, it would be foolish to simply dismiss the potential end of the Saudi preference for the dollar with hand-waving. The end of the petrodollar would indeed weaken the dollar, even if this would not be a mortal blow in itself. Moreover, it is especially foolhardy to ignore the status of the petrodollar because that status also has geopolitical implications. Saudi comments on the dollar signal that the Saudis no longer consider its alliance with the United States to be as important as it has been since the 1970s. What’s not an immediate economic problem for the US regime or the dollar may nonetheless be an immediate geopolitical problem.