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Trade for Geopolitical Stability: Lessons for India and Pakistan

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One of the most volatile zones today apart from the 38th parallel between the North-South Korea is the India-Pakistan border. With attacks and counter-attacks being reported almost every day, the threat of full-fledged war between the two largest nations in the South Asian region cannot be overlooked. Although last time both the countries were at war was in 1999 but the recent decision of the Indian Government on State of Jammu and Kashmir has increased tensions between the two countries. As a result of this rivalry, both the governments have been trying to feed their people with their own narratives and hence it becomes important to ascertain what can be the way out of the age-old conflict between the two nations. While India and Pakistan both are members of various international organizations like UN, WTO, IMF, etc. as well as regional organizations like SAARC, SCO, etc., none of these forums have ever come even an inch closer to resolution of the dispute between the two. Most recently with the decision of India to revoke Article 370, Pakistan has retaliated with the suspension of trade ties with India. The current bilateral trade between the two countries accounts for only a mere 2.1 bn $ and as it only forms 0.83% of total trade between the two countries hence both the countries have nothing to lose in the discourse. This article analyses how trade can ensure regional stability among two major players of the South Asian region.

While trade could have been a measure to ensure harmony between any conflicting nations, yet the first retaliatory measure that countries opt for is to cut off bilateral trade with each other in order to show their resentment over a policy. Although such instances have decreased in number since the formation of World Trade Organization (WTO), yet they cannot be altogether ruled out. At this stage,it is equally important to understand that since the formation of WTO, the world has not seen major wars as it was understood in its traditional meaning as a war between nations. One can equally not neglect the rise of belligerency and insurgency often supported by foreign institutions. Still, one of the credits that cannot be taken away from WTO is that it has ensured that the countries which have higher volume of bilateral trade often prefer peace over war, despite the odds. This claim is not without merit. History is a great educator. A brief comparison before the formation of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and after the formation of GATT would prove it. The GATT was negotiated between countries in 1948. It was one of the founding pillars on which our modern-day WTO is based.

The countries came to an agreement where they fixed a range for tariffs or bound rate beyond which the tariffs cannot be imposed on import of goods. This mechanism ensures certainty in tariff rates which prevents the countries to turn into protectionist regimes. It would not be wrong to say that the first idea of globalization pursued by international community was not freedom of movement of people but the freedom of movement of goods and services. Prior to GATT, during the early 1930s, also known as the period of the Great Depression, lack of such an affirmation in form of GATT and the consequent fear that imports would throw more people out of work led governments to raise their trade barriers, thus creating a vicious cycle of retaliation. As a result, the world economy shattered, eventually contributing to the outbreak of World War II. Such a protectionist approach with no such affirmation as we find in GATT can easily lead us to a situation where everyone loses. However, a deeper analysis in the post-World War II period would establish that the recovery of Western European nations from the aftermath of the war was much quicker as compared to the Eastern European nations.

The effect was such that most of the western European nations today are part of a customs union with free movement of goods as well as of people. Even the Soviet Union (USSR), which opposed the idea of market economy before its disintegration showed interest in becoming a member of GATT in 1986. Several letters and correspondence between GATT members and USSR prove this point. Much later after its disintegration, during 2000s most of the newly formed nations acceded to the GATT with Russia ultimately joining the WTO in 2008. What was realised much later in form of European Union (EU)found its place in the writings of French Philosopher Montesquieu and Italian Economist Pareto. Montesquieu, in 1748,quoted, peace is a natural effect of commerce. Pareto argued in 1889 that customs union can help to achieve peace between European nations. None of these claims have been proven wrong. Since the formation of EU, none of the surveys have ever claimed of Europe being the centre for next major war between nations. It can be equally argued that this has been made possible because now the focus of nations has shifted from acquiring territories to improving their respective economies. Yet, the importance of economics behind a war cannot be totally neglected. Going by the report of UNICEF conducted by M Humphreys of Harvard University in 2003 came to a similar conclusion stating, countries which trade with each other are less likely to fight each other. He illustrates his argument with how most of the leftist scholars have yet not come out of the mercantilism hangover as the modern trade regime is not based on mercantilism which believed that imports per se are bad for any country.

Another recent example can be seen in the shift that UNDP’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have brought in contrast to Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The interlinkage between the idea of development and conflict which was missing in MDGs find their place, and rightly so, in the SDGs. Even the ASEAN which today has become a successful economic bloc was formed with the intention of stopping the spread of communist ideas in the region. Since 1990s the organization has remained an important voice in nearly all the economic platforms. Even scholars from all around the world have supported similar idea.Daniel Griswold, examined the idea that whether free and open markets promote human rights and democracy. He observed, “Economic liberalization provides a counterweight to governmental power and creates space for civil society. The faster growth and greater wealth that accompany trade promote democracy by creating an economically independent and political aware middle class. A sizeable middle class means that more citizens can afford to be educated and take an interest in public affairs. They can afford cell phones, Internet access, and satellite TV. As citizens acquire assets and establish businesses and careers in the private sector, they prefer the continuity and evolutionary reform of a democratic system to the sharp turns and occasional revolutions of more authoritarian systems. People who are allowed to successfully manage their daily economic lives in a relatively free market come to expect and demand more freedom in the political and social realm.”

Turning to the question in context, i.e. South Asia, especially India and Pakistan, this is probably not the first time that someone has come up with the idea of trade as a means to ensure peace and stability in the region. In one of his recent articles,Dr. Ranjan, Professor at South Asian University, arguesThe people of South Asia surely deserve a prosperous and a peaceful future.  The onus is on the leadership of the two biggest countries in the region to deliver. While solving difficult political questions will undoubtedly take time, it won’t be a bad idea to start working towards creating an atmosphere where even difficult questions can be resolved. Increasing bilateral trade can be one such step towards creating such a positive atmosphere.

In a study published by Woodrow Wilson International Centre, “trade relation between India and Pakistan have often blossomed even while political relations wilted. In 1948–49, 56 percent of Pakistan’s exports were sent to India. For the next several years—a period of tense political relations—India was Pakistan’s largest trading partner. Between 1947 and 1965, the two nations entered into 14 bilateral agreements related to trade facilitation.”

Source: Bloomberg (Quint)

In a recent report by World Bank, the potential of trade between the two nations is a whooping 37 bn $. However, in reality it is at 2.4 bn $ which is insignificant for both the countries. The informal trade between the countries stands much higher at 4 bn $, which is routed through UAE. With regards to the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause, India granted MFN to Pakistan in 1996 and withdrew it post Pulwama attacks in 2019. Pakistan has yet not reciprocated the same. It is however quite strange that none of the successive governments in India has ever brought the issue to the WTO against Pakistan’s non-compliance of MFN obligations. Even under the regional trade arrangements like South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), Pakistan maintains a negative list of over 1200 products which it doesn’t import from India. Apart from these tariff measures there are other non-tariff reasons such as port restrictions prevailing between both the countries which further narrows down the scope of increased trade. The other logistical reasons include the transport restrictions through Wagah Border, where none of the transport vehicles are allowed to move out of the border zone and have to unload their cargo.

The condition worsened post article 370 amendment, when Pakistan decided to suspend all trade ties with India. Although none of the decisions taken by either of the governments ever impacted their respective economies, yet retaliatory measures undertaken by both the countries with respect to not granting or withdrawal of MFN or even suspension of trade cannot be justified if brought before the dispute settlement body of WTO. A measure which goes against the principles enunciated under the WTO agreements is only allowedin cases when they either fall under the category of General Exceptions or National Security Exception. However, a prima facie observation of all the measures ever undertaken by either of the governments shows that none of these qualify either under the general exceptions or national security exception.

The problems pertaining to the conflict between the two nations is not merely political but also dependent upon the perception of ordinary people. Recent survey by Pew Research Centre found that 76 percent of Indians viewed Pakistan as a serious threat and 61 percent of Pakistanis viewed India as a threat, more than 55 percent who viewed Taliban as a threat. Another survey by Pulse Consultant in 2017 found 95 percent of Pakistanis designating India as the worst enemy. This narrative has further been deepened by the media houses in both the countries who often during debates promote the hatred. This public perception depends a lot on the population and what narrative they read and follow. As the median population in both these countries is around 24-28, most of them have not witnessed the horrific impact of either the 1965 war or the 1971 war between the two nations. To change this perception, free trade can be one of the ways. With freer trade in place, it is not only the products which cross borders, but also the ideas and other forms of expressions in form of magazines, news etc. It might not be as effective as educating and spreading awareness among people, yet when the political class of both the countries is occupied with bashing each other at international forums, this can be a good start.

Overall, with such a trade potential between the two nations it is imperative for the governments of both the countries to ensure that their trade policy should be separated from other policies. One suggested method as Raj Bhala, a trade expert, explains can be in form of use of clause 11 of Article XXIV of GATT which deals with the concept of regional trading arrangements. As prior to partition, the entire Indian subcontinent was seen as a single customs territory, the clause provides that the provisions of this Agreement shall not prevent the two countries from entering into special arrangements with respect to the trade between them, pending the establishment of their mutual trade relations on a definitive basis.As it is quite clear from the text of the provision, if India and Pakistan make use of this provision grant of any bilateral preferences between them will not be considered as a violation of any principle of WTO. Unfortunately, as Dr. Ranjan remarks, this has become a forgotten rule.

The countries can ensure better trading network by removing impediments to trade such as trade infrastructure and logistics, changes in their visa policy, easing cross border financial transactions etc. As Zareen F Naqvi, Director of Institutional Research at University of Fraser Valley, Canada, argues in his article, “both India and Pakistan need to tackle their restrictive visa regimes. A number of issues related to trade infrastructure and logistics can be done unilaterally such as the initiation of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), more efficient customs processing at land border crossings, setting up or upgrading and warehousing, testing and security facilities, and setting up bank branches to ease financial transactions on both sides of the border.

As already proven above through various researches and surveys, trade has the potential to provide political stability to any volatile region. With continuous threat of full-fledged war lurking on both the nations, economic development cannot be ensured as most of the times these countries tend to focus on their military needs. Human development in both these countries still remains low on the HDI index. Today, the future of around 2 billion people in the world rests on few politicians in both these countries. The improvement in standards of living, poverty, employment, etc. rest a lot on the political willingness of the countries. It is the need of the hour to ensure that the two nuclear capable countries should not involve in a full-fledged war with each other as it would lead to a major catastrophe. The economic development of Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan do show us a path which follows the same narrative of freer trade between nations. Both these nations have to realise that trade ensures the active involvement of manufactures involved in export, civil societies and middle class in foreign relations. Once that is achieved, it would not be easy for any government to go for a fur fledged war as it is peace which ensures that the interests of these sections of the society are preserved.

Samarth Trigunayat is LLM graduate from South Asian University, New Delhi. South Asian University was established by SAARC member nations to enhance cooperation between the member states through the tool of education. The author is currently employed as Young Professional (Law) at Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. The author has previously worked as Assistant Professor at Faculty of Law, Shree Guru Gobind Singh Tricentenary University, Gurugram, India. His area of interest includes International Trade Law, International Investment Law, Feminist Jurisprudence and Constitutional Law. The author can be reached at: lawyer.samarth[at]gmail.com

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Prospects of Vietnam’s Economic Growth in 2023

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The ongoing  war in Ukraine and increasing commodity prices across the world have impacted the developing countries. Countries in Asia which were recovering from the COVID-19 impact on their economies have to rework their recovery process by looking for alternate supply chains and reducing their financial responsibilities towards social sector through budgetary management. Among the developing economies in Asia , Vietnam showed an economic growth of nearly 3 per cent  even when many of the countries were witnessing  recession and reduced production because of adverse impact of COVID-19 .The stimulus packages that the governments across the world have to give to the manufacturing sector to accelerate production and meet the demands of the people. In a report released by World Bank in August last year it was stated that the Vietnamese economy is likely to grow by nearly 7.2 per cent in 2023 and it is going to sustain itself in 2024 with a likely growth projection of 6.7 per cent. These are encouraging signs .Few of the sectors which might be accelerating the growth process would be in the field of footwear and electronics. Vietnam itself has been undertaking strong anti corruption measures so as to facilitate stronger economic fundamentals and recovery from the COVID-19 impact.

The economic growth of Vietnam has been accelerating and the agricultural sector has been productive in ensuring food security for Vietnamese citizens. As per one of the estimates this sector contributed more than 14 per cent in national gross domestic product and has engaged more than 35 per cent of youth in the year 2020. This sector also earned valuable foreign exchange of more than U.S. dollar 48 billion. One of the interesting achievements of Vietnam has been increasing life expectancy, and its universal health coverage which covers more than 87 per cent of the population.

As per the plan of action which has been envisaged  for Vietnamese economy by its leadership it aspires to become a high income country by the year 2045. It is expected that with the sound economic fundamentals and more than 5.5 annual average per capita growth for the next 2 and a half decades it can reach that milestone. Vietnamese population is also young and is adapting itself for digital economy and building core fundamentals for its membership in different regional economic organisations such as RCEP and CPTPP.The bilateral free trade agreement with EU is also facilitating its growth in several sectors.

There have been significant structural improvements ushered through policy documents in terms of improving financial architecture, accepting global norms related to climate and environment, comprehensive security for population against poverty , and extensive investment in infrastructure development both in rural and urban areas.

In one of the articles written  in Bloomberg it has acknowledged that Vietnam is  now is one of the Asia’s  fastest growing economies which has grown to 8.02% last year and it even surpassed  government assessment of 6 to 6.5 per cent growth. The article also acknowledged the fact that manufacturing has been growing to near 10 per cent mark in comparison to last year and there is strong development in the services sector as well. Among the economies Vietnam’s  inward foreign direct investment has also been doing quite well and it has received nearly US  $27.72 billion last year .Asian Development Bank has forecasted that Vietnam is going to grow at the rate of 6.3% in the year 2023. Also the unemployment rate has reduced and with inflation clearly under 5 per cent , showcases that the long term decisions which we have taken with the initiation of Doi Moi(economic liberalisation process )  in 1986 has been bearing fruits.

In terms of sectoral assessment, the real estate as well as construction  sector ,the growth was about 7.78 per cent last year and the services sector growth was closer to 10 per cent. There have  been increase in exports last year as well and an increase of 10.6% was noticed. One of the core arguments which have been given with regard to Vietnam’s impressive growth has been related to trade liberalization, increased deregulation and improvement in the ease of doing business, investment in human resources and stable government were seen as critical attributes for this impressive growth in Vietnamese economy.

Major companies in footwear, electronics, and mobile production have invested in Vietnamese economy and few of the companies have shifted base from China to Vietnam. Improved  congenial economic environment has been appreciated by companies such as Adidas, Nike and Samsung to list few.

Owing to the development of new kind of digital technologies and better consumer awareness Vietnam is preparing itself for a major impetus in the E- commerce sector and therefore has been making extensive changes in digital based economy and more stress on science and technology development. Vietnam has acknowledged the fact that with the changes in sectoral composition of the economy, it is pertinent to develop necessary skill power and human resources which can seamlessly integrate Vietnam into global value chains and also help the services sector in exploring new markets.

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The Crippled Economy

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Lack of money is the root of all evils. Facts do not seize to exist because they’re ignored.

Lack of money is what Pakistan is experiencing and dealing with every now and then for the major part, since it came into existence either due to incompetence of our political leaders, their corruption, fighting wars of someone else or due to lack of long-term vision. Pakistan is currently in the middle of a turmoil trying to recover from devastating floods of 2022, facing the after effects of the withdrawal of USA from Afghanistan in the form of resurgence of terrorism, dealing with the political chaos created by the politicians who claim to be leaders of the state. Another yet most important, severe and devastating challenge that Pakistan is facing is its economic downfall. In one sense the lack of money is the root cause of all the problems mentioned above except the political chaos.

The economy of Pakistan, like a battle-hardened warrior has built resilience battling several challenges over the course of seventy years and is trained to survive but the recent political turmoil and the difficulty caused by nature (Floods), the burden of debts repayment, the threat of resurgence of terrorism and international indicators pointing towards an economic recession in 2023 has almost crushed the backbone of Pakistan’s economy.  

World bank has recently released its latest report forecasting Pakistan’s Gross domestic product (GDP) to grow at only 1.7% for the fiscal year (FY) 2023 that is less than the half of what it predicted to during last June (4%). It has also predicted a near to recession economic situation of the world economy characterized with high inflation, increasing interest rates and the circumstances caused by the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.

Pakistan must reportedly payback 73$ Billion in the next three years till the end of FY2025 and central bank of the country also known as State Bank of Pakistan currently has Foreign exchange reserves of about only 5.6$ billion. This debt repayment is the key challenge for Pakistan’s economic survival and other challenges such as ever-increasing inflation, high interest rate, the growing unemployment, the decrease in imports are all byproducts of the main challenge. The threat of a possible default is becoming evident and is looming over fiscal horizon.

Monsoon on Steroids, a phenomenon directly linked with climate change played havoc with Pakistan. These floods added a profound risk to the country’s economic outlook. The country lost infrastructure worth of billions of dollars and floods effected 33$ million people and 1700 people lost their lives. According to Ministry of Planning and development of Pakistan, Pakistan has faed the loses of more than an estimation of 10$ billion. The catastrophe of floods also played with agroeconomics as crops were destroyed causing destruction of agriculture sector which makes up to 24% of country’s GDP. A comprehensive recovery policy is needed and with the helped promised by international community at Geneva, government has passed one hurdle but to make the sustainable recovery abundance of resources, capacity and transparency is needed.

The policy uncertainty has been a major cause in creating a mistrust among investors and has almost ceased foreign direct investment in Pakistan. This policy uncertainty is due to lack of will of national leaders to take tough decisions. For Example, former prime minister of Pakistan rolled out of International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) program fearing his ousting and to gain public support he reduced prices of commodities such as Petrol & Gas and took country almost on the verge of default.

The policy uncertainty is caused by Political uncertainty which in turn lead towards economic uncertainty. Economic stability can only be achieved by political stability and there’s no other way around. Political stability can be achieved through free and fair elections and elimination of the role of establishment in political process of Pakistan. And if a government takes long-term policy goals into account while formulating a policy rather than short-term goals to gain public support and trying to keep hold on the reins of Government. The selfish politicians have to play selfless and put Pakistan’s benefit before their own benefit to get Pakistan out of this political and economic turmoil.

The only solution in sight for Pakistan is to carry on with the 6$ billion IMF program and to try for rescheduling of depts repayment as it owes more than 70$ billion to be paid by the end of 2025 that is currently not possible. Another step from international community can also help Pakistan that is if a country makes an investment of 10-20$ billion directly rather than in the form of loans as happened in CPEC. Moreover, help from rich friendly Muslim countries can also provide an array of hope for Pakistan.

But these steps won’t address the clear underlying malaise of the economy and the fact that something fundamentally will need to change, in terms of how much the economy produces versus how much it spends, to avoid default down the road. But none of Pakistan’s political parties seem to have the political will or ability to bring about such change. Priorities needs to be shifted from personal interest of political elite to national interest. They must be ready to sacrifice their political image and interest for the greater good and to save the country from default down the road.

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From unidimensional to 3D: the contours of the post-Bretton Woods world

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The start of the year 2023 was marked by a series of statements coming from representatives of BRICS countries concerning plans to create new currencies. In particular, Brazil’s President Lula called for the creation of common currencies among BRICS and MERCOSUR countries, while Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the creation of the BRICS common currency would feature in the discussions at the BRICS summit to be held in South Africa this year. And even as a lot of these changes in the international monetary system will take time, the vector of this transformation is becoming increasingly clear. The new international monetary system will be increasingly geared towards the creation of new regional currencies that will aspire to take on a global reserve status alongside the current pantheon of the select currencies of advanced economies. A multi-regional international monetary system in which the key regions of the developing world form their regional currencies may offer greater optionality to the global financial markets and will reduce the dependency on the few select reserve currencies.

A fragmented global financial system consisting almost exclusively of national currencies leaves scope for excessive dependency on the currency of the dominant economy. This in turn creates sizeable vulnerabilities in the form of a “moral hazard” and “too big to fail” considerations – the debt ceiling in the US is duly elevated to avoid default, while the “exorbitant privilege” of the US dollar as the global reserve currency is feeding “moral hazard” patterns in the form of greater fiscal profligacy and the emergence of related theories such as MMT.

As stated in the recent IMF report, “despite the weaknesses of the current reserve system (the “New Triffin dilemma”) any significant shifts away from the status quo are only possible if and when there are viable alternatives to the dominant currencies.”[1] . This recognition by the Fund of the fundamental weakness of the current monetary system (while conditional on the emergence of alternatives) is an important testament to the rising doubts regarding the “infallibility” of the current monetary system. One way to look at some these deficiencies is to realize that high inflation in advanced economies is currently undermining the value of these countries’ state debt – the ratio of US state debt to GDP by the end of 2022 declined by nearly 9% of GDP compared to Q1 2021 on the back of an inflated (due to price growth) nominal GDP. This depreciation in the value of US public debt is adversely affecting the reserve holdings of those countries that have opted to invest heavily in US dollar-denominated assets. At the same time, along with the inflation-related reduction in the debt-to-GDP ratio the nominal stock of US debt continued to grow and forced repetitive increases in the US debt ceiling over the past years. This time around in 2023 the risk of a US default due to the fragilities in the balance of power in US legislature came as yet another scare to emerging markets and a reminder of the perils of high dependency on one sole center of “gravity” in the global economy.

To overcome this high dependency and the fragmentation of the currency space in the Global South developing countries can form larger currency blocks – whether regional (as in the case of the proposed currency for MERCOSUR economies) or transregional (as is the case with the proposed R5 BRICS currency basket). This process of aggregation in currency unions across the Global South if continued may lead eventually to the formation of currencies with sufficient economic weight in terms of the underlying GDP and reserve size of members to merit their inclusion into the group of global reserve currencies.

The international monetary system formed on the basis of macro-regional currency unions will present greater opportunities for advancing new candidates for the position of global reserve currencies. Across the Global South there may be at least three regional currencies with sufficient economic weight to be potentially included into the set of global reserve currencies:

  • A Latin America common reserve currency
  • An African common reserve currency
  • An Asian common reserve currency

The Latin American track has already been promulgated by Lula da Silva in Brazil. In Africa the formation of the AfCFTA as well as the rising global prominence of the African Union (likely to become a full-fledged member of the G20 in the coming years) bode well for gradually moving towards greater coordination in the economic policies of not only the national economies of the African continent, but also its regional integration and currency arrangements. In Asia, several proposals have already been unveiled in the past several years, including the possible creation of a Pan-Asian single currency as well as a common currency for the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

All these regional currencies have the potential to carry enough economic weight and scale in the form of their respective integrated regional blocks to enable them to attain the global reserve currency status. The potential for regional currencies to become integral parts of the global financial system is expanded by the optionality in the modalities of regional currencies/regional agreements in the monetary sphere that may include:

  • Regional baskets
  • Regional currencies that replace existing national currencies
  • Regional swap lines
  • Digital regional currencies/currency baskets
  • Regional accounting units 

The new currencies, whether regional or trans-regional, will need an anchor or a reference point, a role that has thus far been primarily filled by the US dollar and the euro. The rise of China as the main trading partner of the economies of the Global South implies that it may be time for the developing economies to change the reference point away from the dollar and the euro towards the yuan and/or the BRICS reserve currency (in which the yuan would likely take a sizeable share). In particular, those developing economies with fixed/pegged exchange rate regimes could consider the possibility to shift towards pegging their currencies to the BRICS basket and/or employing this new currency increasingly as an accounting unit. This would accord well with the trends of the past decade characterized by growing importance of South-South trade; it would also provide more favourable conditions for further expediting the diversification of foreign trade and investment towards the South-South track after decades of under-trading among the developing economies (including among the regional partners in the developing world).

The latter point may need some elaboration – for decades the trading patterns of the developing economies were largely characterized by high shares of trade with the leading advanced economies such as the US and the EU and lower-than-potential trade shares accorded to the regional neighbours of these economies. The indications of the gravity model that traces trade intensity to distance among countries and their economic weight (as measures by GDP) suggest that there is tremendous potential to boosting regional trade given the lower gravity of distance. Regional economic integration and the creation of regional currencies, like the planned launching of the regional currency SUR in Latin America, would serve to realize this potential for South-South regional trade for the benefit of global economic growth. 

The three key pillars of a revitalized international monetary system will need to include the following Post-Bretton Woods principles, or 3D principles as per below:

  • Demonopolization (Poly-centricity): a system that is predicated on a set of reserve currencies that include a number of regional currencies as well as possibly trans-regional baskets of currencies – the resulting pattern is that of a co-existence of reserve currencies from EM and DM without a “core-periphery” pattern setting in the global monetary system
  • Depoliticization: the new international monetary system will also need to contain a “de-politicization clause” as one of its key foundations – the reserve currencies will need to carry a legal affirmation of the non-use of these currencies in imposing sanctions and other restrictions
  • Dis-inflation: with the “exorbitant privileges” of the DM currencies dissipating, inflationary fragilities in the global monetary system may be attenuated; at the same time the competitive edge in the global monetary system will start to gravitate towards those currencies that are credibly backed up with reserves/resources.

Compared to the unidimensional paradigm of the current monetary system, these 3D principles are meant to render the vision of the international monetary system more objective and real – the new system needs to reflect the changing realities and dynamics in the world economy, including the emergence of new regional economic centers; it also needs to address the growing demand on the part of the international community for currencies to be real, i.e. duly supported by countries’/regions’ reserves/resources.

Another way to picture the 3D vision for the international monetary system is to introduce a regional layer into the monetary system that is represented by the regional integration blocks, their currencies and development institutions. This regional layer would complement the layers of national economies at the bottom and the global economic institutions (such as the IMF and the World Bank) at the top. The main ingredients for the regional layer of the international monetary system are largely in place and consist of the following three key elements:

  • Regional financing arrangements (RFAs)
  • Regional development banks (RDBs)
  • Regional currency mechanisms

For the financial markets an international monetary system characterized by the emergence of regional economic and currency blocks may result in a decoupling of emerging markets (EM) from developed economies (DM) – contrary to the current paradigm whereby the dominance of US and EU financial markets determine to a large degree the overall direction of market dynamics in the developing world.

In the end, the international monetary system is not out of the woods just yet – the fragilities that resulted in the rising frequency of global downturns throughout the past several decades are yet to be addressed. One of the key pathways out of the limitations of the current Bretton Woods setup is to expand the array of reserve currencies with the new regional currencies that could emerge in the Global South. The evolving international monetary system cannot be disassociated from the future progression of the global economy, including its trade structure and patterns of investment flows. In this respect the regionalization of the global economy and the rise in the prominence of trading blocks and their regional development institutions (regional development banks and regional financing arrangements) will increasingly call for greater regionalization of the international monetary system.  


[1] Aiyar, Shekhar, Ilyina, Anna, and others (2023). Geoeconomic Fragmentation and the Future of Multilateralism. Staff Discussion Note SDN/2023/001. International Monetary Fund, Washington, DC.

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