The U.S. has maintained an overall trade deficit for decades, essentially exporting money. For many countries this fund of 'ex-patriated' dollars has been a big tool of trade. Everyone accepts dollars. Convert Samoan clams to dollars to buy Romanian veeblefetzers.

Everyone trusts the dollar. Under what circumstances can that change?

I've seen and felt the contempt of the world toward the U.S. government since The Great Cheeto took office. He's a wild card. I have some investments in U.S. funds. I'm seriously considering pulling them.

I'm making a point of not buying US products if I can find alternatives.

As a tree farmer, I'm looking for alternate suppliers of the pots I use.

If my attitude is common, then US exports fall, the demand for dollars to buy US goods drops, at some point the holders of US debt decide that holding it is a bad idea, and there is a run to get rid of it.

Is this plausible? Is there a plausible scenario that would cause nations to abandon the U.S. dollar as the reserve/trading currency?

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    $\begingroup$ I think a loss of faith in US securities could plausibly weaken the global grip of the USD.- so, if the treasury note is no longer considered a risk-free investment. $\endgroup$
    – 123
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ Another condition is that there needs to be another currency with perceived lower risk for this to happen. EU, China, they're all facing various difficulties. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 19:19

1 Answer 1


There are many plausible scenarios in which the dollar ceases to be the de-facto currency. They all have a few things in common. For people to stop using dollars for international trade, there would need to be two circumstances:

  1. A reduction in trust in the USD (not just in US politicians)
  2. A good (better than the USD) alternative currency

While political emotions run strong, both in the US and abroad, these emotions do not normally have a large effect on the economy. There has been no significant change in American business practices, law, monetary policy, or productivity as a result of the change in leadership. This has been very clear. You can easily argue that American reputation abroad has been harmed, but that doesn't translate to negative economic repercussions. Remember, the Soviet Union was using the dollar for international trade during the cold war. A reduction in trust in the USD would come about if there was significant inflation of the dollar or if the US stopped producing things that people want to buy. Neither of those appear to be on the horizon. As the result, there has been no change in the attitude toward the dollar.

At the same time, the best candidate by far for an alternative currency, the Euro, has had significant problems recently. It doesn't matter if the world thinks very highly of European politicians and dislikes American politicians; they aren't going to switch from dollars to Euros unless they perceive Euros to be a safer and more liquid currency.

Similarly, foreign investors will not withdraw from American investments wholesale unless they perceive a real risk to the investment potential. These types of decisions (on a large scale) are made in a cold, calculating way. Until something happens that might actually affect the potential of US-based investments, there won't be a large change in demand for them.

Interestingly, when there are shakeups in the US economy (like when treasury securities were downgraded) the result is often the opposite of what you might expect. There's a general concern about the worldwide economy and then a flight to quality, causing an increase in demand for relatively safe US securities, including the ones that were the apparent cause of the panic.

  • $\begingroup$ This is an excellent answer, I had to think long and hard to what more I could contribute, thought to leave an excellent answer to stand alone. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel
    Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 0:48

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