Research Director, International Economics
Senior Research Fellow, International Economics

The unwillingness of the US to ratify governance reforms at the IMF puts the international system at risk of fragmentation and could make the G20, IMF and World Bank less effective.

Flags of participating countries at the G20 heads of government meeting are placed in front of Antalya airport, Turkey on 15 October 2015. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Contributor/Getty Images.Flags of participating countries at the G20 heads of government meeting are placed in front of Antalya airport, Turkey on 15 October 2015. Photo: Getty Images.

Summary

 

  • The IMF and World Bank are still dominated by the United States, despite the growing importance of emerging markets such as China and India in the global economy.
  • The more prominent role of the G20 since 2008 was intended to signal a shift in the balance of influence towards emerging markets, but the slow pace of reforms to the governance of international financial institutions has hindered this.
  • The large emerging markets have responded by establishing new institutions, and China is promoting the use of the renminbi in a multicurrency international monetary system.
  • The United States has opposed many of these initiatives, and remains unwilling to ratify governance reforms at the IMF. This stand-off risks fragmentation of the international system, and a shift away from multilateralism. In the process there is the risk that the G20, IMF and World Bank will become less effective, further hastening fragmentation.
  • There is a role in the international economic system both for the G20 and the Bretton Woods institutions, and they are at their most effective when they work together. But the impasse over reforms, especially at the IMF, threatens to damage them.
  • Individually and collectively, G20 members have a crucial role to play in modernizing international economic governance. Necessary steps include a change in the US position on IMF quotas, G7 support for emerging-market initiatives, engagement by BRICS countries in efforts to make the G20 more effective, and committed leadership from China during its G20 presidency in 2016.