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In September 2010, Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega pointed his rhetorical finger at the United States and accused the world’s largest economy of conducting a “currency war”. Suggesting that emerging markets were being unfairly squeezed by a falling dollar, which makes US exports more competitive, Mantega lit the touch paper on a controversy that won’t go away.

For now, “currency wars” are a relatively arcane debate limited to foreign exchange specialists and diplomats. But this issue has already adversely affected hundreds of millions of people who consider themselves largely immune to the vicissitudes of international markets, not least in the UK. History shows, also, such currency disputes can escalate from rhetorical spats into disastrously counter-productive economic conflict.
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