Study Tour
“An Evolving Global Economic Order: The Future of the Bretton Woods Institutions”

Bretton Woods Institutions Study Tour Delegation

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The World Order and Globalization Hub welcomed a delegation of eleven trade experts in November for a seven-day study tour focused on the future of the Bretton Woods institutions. During the week, the delegation held 13 different meetings with over 15 experts in the fields of international trade and global financial institutions.

In Washington, DC, the delegation met with representatives from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank Group, the Center for International Enterprise (CIPE), the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The discussion in Washington, DC opened with the perception of the Bretton Woods institutions in the participants’ home countries, with several of our participants underscoring the mistrust and skepticism of these institutions present in their countries. Participants hailing from Pakistan, Tunisia, Mexico, and Turkey all highlighted the general negative perception of the IMF and World Bank in their respective countries. In contrast, participants from Indonesia, Slovenia, and Germany remarked that the Bretton Woods institutions are generally well regarded.

A consistent theme in the conversations in Washington, DC was the global perception of the IMF and World Bank, especially among emerging economies. Several of our participants identified the challenge of portraying the benefits of the IMF and World Bank’s global work as a key determinant for the future of the institutions. The rise of China as a development funder has further complicated this issue, as the Bretton Woods institutions are “no longer the only game in town.” Working to distinguish the lending and development policies of the Bretton Woods institutions from China’s predatory lending tactics was a potential solution that several speakers and participants alike proposed during our talks in Washington.

The second half of the program took place in New York City, where the group met virtually with representatives from the World Bank Group and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and in person with representatives from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Columbia University.

The discussion in New York City differed from that in Washington, DC, with the starkest contrast being the focus on the future of sustainable development. Unlike in Washington, DC, where much of the conversation centered on the inner workings of the Bretton Woods institutions, the meetings in New York City, particularly those with the UNDP and the SDSN, contained robust discussions on the future of sustainable development and “greening” international financial institutions. Meanwhile, the meeting with Dr. Arvind Panagariya, a renowned free trade expert and current professor at Columbia University, focused on how the pandemic has accelerated global trade restrictions, and how this will impact the future of international trade. 

During the group’s final evaluation meeting, they discussed the upcoming policy paper on how global financial institutions responded to the pandemic, and how these institutions can continue to maintain their relevance in a changing world. Titled “Organized Resilience,” this paper will analyze the future role of the Bretton Woods institutions, and what lessons can be learned as the world’s leaders seek to tackle the numerous other present challenges, including the rise of authoritarianism and the growing risks of climate change.

The World Order and Globalization Hub would like to thank all of the participants for their engagement and insightful contributions throughout the program. We hope you’ll all stay in touch!