The G-20’s Helpful Silence on Capital Controls

When French President Nicolas Sarkozy took the reins as host of this year’s G-20 summit, to be held in Cannes on November 3-4, he called on the IMF to develop an enforceable “code of conduct” for the use of capital controls in the world economy. But, while the IMF’s proposed code is a step in the right direction, it is misguided.

NEW YORK – When French President Nicolas Sarkozy took the reins as host of this year’s G-20 summit, to be held in Cannes on November 3-4, he called on the International Monetary Fund to develop an enforceable “code of conduct” for the use of capital controls (or capital-account regulations, as we prefer to call them) in the world economy. The IMF followed through by publishing a preliminary set of guidelines this past April.

Regulation of cross-border capital flows has been strangely absent from the G-20’s agenda, which is aimed at strengthening financial regulation. But they are a central element in the financial volatility that incited calls for stronger regulation in the first place. The IMF has shown that those countries that deployed capital-account regulations were among the least hard-hit during the worst of the global financial crisis. Since 2009, it has accepted and even recommended that such regulations are useful to manage the massive inflows of “hot money” into emerging markets.

That said, while the IMF’s proposed code is a step in the right direction, it is misguided. So, the G-20’s endorsement of the Fund’s guidelines would not be wise for a world economy trying to recover from one financial crisis while preventing the next one.

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