The current dollar-based global monetary system known as “Bretton Woods II” is on its last legs. We all know it, but what none of us know is what will replace it.

Inquiring minds should be interested to discover that World Bank President Robert Zoellick mentioned a role for gold in the development of a new monetary system to succeed “Bretton Woods II”.

Please consider, The G20 must look beyond Bretton Woods by Robert Zoellick.

… Fifth, the G20 should complement this growth recovery programme with a plan to build a co-operative monetary system that reflects emerging economic conditions. This new system is likely to need to involve the dollar, the euro, the yen, the pound and a renminbi that moves towards internationalisation and then an open capital account.

The system should also consider employing gold as an international reference point of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency values. Although textbooks may view gold as the old money, markets are using gold as an alternative monetary asset today.

The development of a monetary system to succeed “Bretton Woods II”, launched in 1971, will take time. But we need to begin. The scope of the changes since 1971 certainly matches those between 1945 and 1971 that prompted the shift from Bretton Woods I to II. Serious work should include possible changes in International Monetary Fund rules to review capital as well as current account policies, and connect IMF monetary assessments with WTO obligations not to use currency policies to remove trade concessions.

Don’t expect any serious movement along the lines of Zoellick’s suggestion until there is a major currency crisis involving the US, Japan, or Europe. In the meantime, it is nice to see a role for gold floated in high places.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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