Tag Archives: G20

IMF Reform and Isolationism in Congress

A long-awaited reform of the International Monetary Fund has now been carelessly blocked by the US Congress.   This decision is just the latest in a series of self-inflicted blows since the turn of the century that have needlessly undermined the claim of the United States to global leadership. 

The IMF reform would have been an important step in updating the allocations of quotas among member countries.  From the negative congressional reaction, one might infer that the US was being asked either to contribute more money or to give up some voting power.   (Quotas allocations in the IMF determine both monetary contributions of the member states and their voting power.)  But one would then be wrong.  The agreement among the IMF members had been to allocate greater shares to China, India, Brazil and other Emerging Market countries, coming largely at the expense of European countries.  The United States was neither to pay a higher budget share nor to lose its voting weight, which has always given it a unique veto power in the institution.

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Combating Volatility in Agricultural Prices

 

Under French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s leadership, the G-20 has made addressing food-price volatility a top priority this year, with member states’ agriculture ministers meeting recently in Paris to come up with solutions. The choice of priorities has turned out to be timely: world food prices reached a record high earlier in 2011, recalling a similar price spike in 2008.

 

Consumers are hurting worldwide, especially the poor, for whom food takes a major bite out of household budgets. Popular discontent over food prices has fueled political instability in some countries, most notably in Egypt and Tunisia. Even agricultural producers would prefer some price stability over the wild ups and downs of the last five years.

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Trying to Hit Ambitious Global Greenhouse Gas Goals, While Obeying Political Constraints

National leaders are meeting at the United Nations in New York today, to discuss the climate change negotiations.    Talks will continue at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh later in the week.   But hopes look very bleak for progress sufficient to produce at Copenhagen in December a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol  The biggest roadblock is the familiar game of “After you, Alphonse.”  The United States will not accept quantitative emission targets unless China, India and other developing countries do the same, at the same time.    But the developing countries will not cut their emissions below the Business as Usual path (BAU) unless the rich countries go first. 

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What’s “Hot” and What’s Not, in International Money

The field of International Monetary Economics is not without its own cycles and fads.

In a speech at the European Central Bank over the summer, “On Global Currencies,” I identified eight concepts that I saw as having recently “peaked” and eight more that I saw as newly rising in relevance. Those that I viewed as losing traction were: the G-7, global savings glut, corners hypothesis, proliferating currency unions, inflation targeting (narrowly defined), exorbitant privilege, Bretton Woods II, and currency manipulation. Those that I saw as receiving increased emphasis now and in the future were: the G-20, the IMF, SDR, credit cycle, reserves, intermediate exchange rate regimes, commodity currencies, and multiple international currency system.

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Why the G-20 Summit in London April 2 Mattered

Most international summit meetings are long on photo-opportunities and short on substance.   There was a great danger that last Thursday’s G-20 meeting in London would be merit comparison to the failed World Economic Conference of 1933, which was also held in London.   This one, however, did have genuine substance.   

Nobody reads the communiques, or listens to the press conferences of leaders or finance ministers. But here is the substance:

Top of the list of accomplishments was expansion of IMF resources. The new SDR allocation was perhaps the most noteworthy and unexpected decision: those observers who have proposed such a step in the current international crisis, or in past international crises, have usually been dismissed as pipe-dreamers (John Williamson, Dani Rodrik, George Soros, Joe Stiglitz…). In addition, there seems to have been some forward movement on international regulation of the financial sector, as the Europeans wanted. Although President Obama acquitted himself well overall, the failure to achieve agreement for coordinated additional fiscal stimulus, as the Americans wanted, was probably the greatest shortcoming of the meeting.

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Restructuring the International Financial System: A New Bretton Woods?

The members of the G-20 are meeting in Washington on November 15 to discuss reform of the global financial system.  The first thing to say about the calls for a “new Bretton Woods” is that they overreach, in the sense that it is very unlikely that any changes in the structure of the international monetary or financial system will or should, at this point in history, come out of multilateral discussions that are big enough to merit comparison with the first Bretton Woods. Certainly we are not talking about fixing exchange rates, as the 1944 meeting did.

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