After the collapse of the Bretton Woods gold standard in the early 1970s, the U.S. struck a deal with Saudi Arabia to standardize oil prices in dollar terms. Through this deal, the petrodollar system was born, along with a paradigm shift away from pegged exchanged rates and gold-backed currencies to non-backed, floating rate regimes.
The petrodollar system elevated the U.S. dollar to the world’s reserve currency and through this status, the U.S. is able to enjoy persistent trade deficits, and become a global economic hegemony. The petrodollar system also provides the United States’ financial markets with a source of liquidity and foreign capital inflows through petrodollar “recycling.” However, before the effects of the petrodollars on the U.S. dollar can be examined, a brief history lesson is in order. (For more, see: Global Trade And The Currency Market and US-Saudi Relations: A Complex Scenario.)
History of the Petrodollar
Faced with mounting inflation, debt from the Vietnam War, profligate domestic spending habits and a persistent balance of payments deficit , the Nixon administration decided to suddenly (and shockingly) end the convertibility of U.S. dollar into gold. In the wake of this “Nixon Shock,” the world saw the end of the gold era and a free fall of the U.S. dollar amidst soaring inflation. According to, Dr. Bessma Moomani in the article, ” GCC Oil Exporters and the Future of the Dollar,” through a series of carefully crafted bilateral agreements with Saudi Arabia beginning in 1974, the U.S. was able to promote bilateral political and commercial relations, market imported U.S. goods and services, and help recycle Saudi petrodollars