The Making of International Monetary Reform

BRUSSELS – If French President Nicolas Sarkozy had written the prologue to his presidency of the G-20, which has just commenced, he could not have done better. The run-up to the G-20’s summit in Seoul was marred by a series of currency controversies, bringing international monetary reform to the fore. Whereas French intentions to reform the international monetary system had initially been received skeptically, suddenly reform looks like the right priority at the right time.

The task is anything but simple. The subject is abstruse. No one outside academia has taken any interest in it for the last 20 years. Accordingly, there are hardly any comprehensive proposals on the table.

The United States, for which international monetary reform is synonymous with diminution of the dollar’s global role, is lukewarm. China, which launched the idea, is happy to see the discussion gaining momentum, but lacks precise ideas. As time is on its side, it sees no reason to hurry.

Emerging countries hold a similar opinion: they want their current problems to be solved but are not ready to re-write the rules of the game. Japan is keen, but its views on regional monetary cooperation do not match China’s. And Europe is distracted more than ever with its internal crises.