G-20 Reforms of the International Monetary System: An Evaluation

November 2011

At the recent Cannes G-20 summit, the international monetary system (IMS) reform agenda, along with a number of other important issues, was hijacked by the European crisis. Nevertheless, the G-20 countries and various international institutions conducted an intensive process of review and discussion of the IMS via conferences, working groups, and reports. A year ago French President Sarkozy and other French government officials set the agenda for IMS reform to include five elements: surveillance of the global economy and financial system, the international lender-of-last-resort mechanisms (global financial safety nets), the management of global capital flows, reserve assets and reserve currencies, and IMS governance. Little progress was made on most of these topics. On surveillance there was only one surprise in the form of commitments by a few countries to allow their automatic stabilizers to operate in the current slowdown; on the lender-of-last-resort issues, there will only be marginal steps forward; and on the management of capital flows, the progress that has been achieved over the past several years has been loosely codified, which is a substantive achievement. Overall, the G-20 summit at Cannes resulted in some useful mutual education but not much in terms of concrete accomplishments.