One of the core staples of the past 40 years, and an anchor propping up the dollar’s reserve status, was a global financial system based on the petrodollar – this was a world in which oil producers would sell their product to the US (and the rest of the world) for dollars, which they would then recycle the proceeds in dollar-denominated assets and while investing in dollar-denominated markets, explicitly prop up the USD as the world reserve currency, and in the process backstop the standing of the US as the world’s undisputed financial superpower.
Those days are coming to an end.
One day after we reported that the “UK is asking Saudis for more oil even as MBS invites Xi Jinping to Riyadh to strengthen ties“, the WSJ is out with a blockbuster report, noting that “Saudi Arabia is in active talks with Beijing to price its some of its oil sales to China in yuan,” a move that could cripple not only the petrodollar’s dominance of the global petroleum market – something which Zoltan Pozsar predicted in his last note – and mark another shift by the world’s top crude exporter toward Asia, but also a move aimed squarely at the heart of the US financial system which has taken advantage of the dollar’s reserve status by printing as much dollars as needed to fund government spending for the past decade.
According to the report, the talks with China over yuan-priced oil contracts have been off and on for six years but have accelerated this year as the Saudis have grown increasingly unhappy with decades-old U.S. security commitments to defend the kingdom.
The Saudis are angry over the U.S.’s lack of support for their intervention in the Yemen civil war, and over the Biden administration’s attempt to strike a deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Saudi officials have said they were shocked by the precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year.
China buys more than 25% of the oil that Saudi Arabia exports, and if priced in yuan, those sales would boost the standing of China’s currency, and set the Chinese currency on a path to becoming a global petroyuan reserve currency.
While nothing new to regular ZH readers (see this from 2017, “The World’s New Reserve Currency? Everything You Need To Know About PetroYuan“), the idea of a new global reserve currency was reintroduced last week by none other than former NY Fed staffed Zoltan Pozsar who wrote in his latest note that “when this crisis (and war) is over, the U.S. dollar should be much weaker and, on the flipside, the renminbi much stronger, backed by a basket of commodities. From the Bretton Woods era backed by gold bullion, to Bretton Woods II backed by inside money (Treasuries with un-hedgeable confiscation risks), to Bretton Woods III backed by outside money (gold bullion and other commodities).”
And so the pieces of the endgame are falling into place: Russia starving the western world of much needed resources, sending commodity prices ever higher, while it’s silent partner China quietly picks up the pieces and takes advantage of Russia’s isolation to approach all those other “non-western” former petrodollar clients to offer them a new product, the yuan, which Beijing is now actively and aggressively pushing to dethrone the dollar as a global reserve currency.