A New Bretton Woods

Rethinking International Economic Institutions and Arrangements

by C. Richard Neu


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In 1944, an international conference was convened in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to lay out a framework for international economic relations in the postwar world. The institutions that grew out of that conference --the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)--have generally served us well. But today's international economic environment is much different than could have been foreseen in 1944, and the time may be ripe for a broad rethinking of international economic institutions and arrangements. Four fundamental policy questions underlie debates about the future nature and purposes of international economic institutions. First, should concerted efforts be made to stabilize exchange rates among major currencies? Second, has the expansion of private credit and capital markets eliminated the need for official sources of international credit? Third, do the GATT principles of nondiscrimination and multilateralism still provide the best basis for expanding world trade? Fourth, what aspects of economic regulation require international cooperation?

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