As finance minister and later his country’s youngest president, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing is believed to have coined the phrase “exorbitant privilege” in the 1960s as an expression of French frustration at the advantages Americans enjoyed with the dollar as the world’s main reserve currency. Of course, it’s not just the French, explained Giscard, who has died of complications from Covid-19 aged 94 . Both allies and foes have long been envious of Washington’s ability to borrow massively – in their own currency – without having to pay punitive interest or risk a collapse in the greenback. Effectively, the rest of the world has helped maintain Americans’ standards of living. The same argument could apply to its subsidising of America’s multinational corporations and defence budgets, which underpin its hegemony with military bases all over the world. The anger and frustration have become more apparent in recent years as Washington increasingly abuses its currency as a financial weapon against enemies or boosts its negotiating positions. Sanctions are an obvious example. Hong Kong officials, including Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, are getting a taste of it over Washington’s objection to the city’s national security law. One of the architects of the euro, it’s doubtful that Giscard envisioned a common European currency to replace the almighty US dollar, though he certainly saw it as an alternative major reserve currency. But the real goal of not just the euro but the European Union is continental integration and the permanent banishment of war and destruction wrought by the world wars. Or, in more cynical terms, France would never be isolated again and Germany would be discouraged from acting unilaterally. Giscard, after all, was a resistance fighter against Nazi occupiers. The weaknesses of the euro, though, were exposed during the global financial crisis. During good times, economically weak member states could borrow profligately but when a crisis hit, they couldn’t devalue the currency to hasten recovery. And Germany was bent on imposing austerity almost as a punishment. As a political instrument, the euro has been a pillar of European peace. But regarding its success as a currency, the jury is still out.