Selected Decisions and Selected Documents of the International Monetary Fund

Article VIII and Article XIV Payments Restrictions

International Monetary Fund
Published Date:
May 2003
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Payments Restrictions for Security Reasons: Fund Jurisdiction

Article VIII, Section 2(a), in conformity with its language, applies to all restrictions on current payments and transfers, irrespective of their motivation and the circumstances in which they are imposed. Sometimes members impose such restrictions solely for the preservation of national or international security. The Fund does not, however, provide a suitable forum for discussion of the political and military considerations leading to actions of this kind. In view of the fact that it is not possible to draw a precise line between cases involving only considerations of this nature and cases involving, in whole or in part, economic motivations and effects for which the Fund does provide the appropriate forum for discussion, and the further fact that the Fund must exercise the jurisdiction conferred by the Fund Agreement in order to perform its duties and protect the legitimate interests of its members, the following policy decision is taken:

1. A member intending to impose restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions that are not authorized by Article VII, Section 3(b) or Article XIV, Section 2 of the Fund Agreement and that, in the judgment of the member, are solely related to the preservation of national or international security, should, whenever possible, notify the Fund before imposing such restrictions. Any member may obtain a decision of the Fund prior to the imposition of such restrictions by so indicating in its notice, and the Fund will act promptly on its request. If any member intending to impose such restrictions finds that circumstances preclude advance notice to the Fund, it should notify the Fund as promptly as circumstances permit, but ordinarily not later than 30 days after imposing such restrictions. Each notice received in accordance with this decision will be circulated immediately to the Executive Directors. Unless the Fund informs the member within 30 days after receiving notice from the member that it is not satisfied that such restrictions are proposed solely to preserve such security, the member may assume that the Fund has no objection to the imposition of the restrictions.

2. The Fund will review the operation of this decision periodically and reserves the right to modify or revoke, at any time, the decision or the effect of the decision on any restrictions that may have been imposed pursuant to it.

Decision No. 144-(52/51)

August 14, 1952

Bilateralism and Convertibility

1. This decision records the Fund’s views on the use of bilateral arrangements.

2. Fund policies and attitude on bilateral arrangements which involve the use of exchange restrictions and represent limitations on a multilateral system of payments are an integral part of its policy on restrictions. This policy aims at the elimination of foreign exchange restrictions and the earliest possible establishment of a multilateral system of payments in respect of current transactions between members. The Fund’s policies and procedures on such restrictions rest on Articles I, VIII and XIV of the Fund Agreement.

3. Certain members have already taken steps to reduce their dependence on bilateral arrangements, but many members still use them. The Fund welcomes the reduced reliance on these arrangements and believes that the improvement in the international payments situation makes it less necessary for members to rely on such arrangements. The Fund urges the full collaboration of all its members to reduce and to eliminate as rapidly as practicable reliance on bilateralism. In this respect the Fund recommends close cooperation of those who plan to make their currencies convertible in the near future. Unless this policy is energetically pursued by all countries, both convertible and inconvertible, there is serious risk that widespread restrictions, particularly of a discriminatory character, will persist. Moreover, the persistence of bilateralism may impede the attainment and maintenance of convertibility. This whole problem is one not only for countries which maintain bilateral arrangements but also for other countries whose domestic and foreign economic policies may adversely affect the balance of payments of other members.

4. The Fund will have discussions with its members on their need to retain existing bilateral arrangements or their ability to facilitate the reduction of bilateral arrangements by other countries. During the coming year, the Fund will explore with all countries which are parties to bilateral arrangements which involve the use of exchange restrictions the need for the continuation of these arrangements, the possibilities of their early removal, and ways and means, including the use of the Fund’s resources, by which the Fund can assist in this process. In its examination of the justification for reliance on such bilateral arrangements the Fund will, without excluding other considerations, have particular regard to the payments position and prospects of the members concerned.

Decision No. 433-(55/42)

June 22, 1955

Official Clearing and Payments Arrangements—Temporary Exemption From Three-Month Rule

Pending completion of the forthcoming review of the jurisdictional aspects of official clearing and payments arrangements, the Fund shall not object to the maintenance in existing official clearing or payments arrangements of settlement provisions that do not require the settlement of balances at least as frequently as every three months if such provisions were in force before July 1, 1994.

Decision No. 10749-(94/67)

July 20, 1994

Retention Quotas: Decision and Letter of Transmittal

In concluding consultations on restrictions on current payments and transfers as required under Article XIV of the Fund Agreement, the Fund postponed consideration of retention quotas and similar practices through which some members have sought to improve their earnings of specific currencies. The Fund has now examined these practices more fully than was possible at the consultations referred to above. The Fund has extended this examination to cover the terms of reference of the resolution adopted on September 9, 1952, by the Board of Governors and has come to the following conclusions:

  • 1. Members should work toward and achieve as soon as feasible the removal of these retention quotas and similar practices, particularly where they lead to abnormal shifts in trade which cause unnecessary damage to other countries. Members should endeavor to replace these practices by more appropriate measures leading to currency convertibility.

  • 2. The Fund will enter into consultation with each of the members concerned with a view to agreeing on a program for the implementation of 1 above, including appropriate attention to timing of any action which may be decided upon.

  • 3. The Fund does not object to those practices which, by their nature, can be regarded as devices designed solely to simplify the administration of official exchange allocations.

The Managing Director is asked to send the following letter to all members in transmitting the foregoing decision on retention quotas and similar practices:

The Fund has made a detailed study concerning retention quotas and other similar practices pursuant to the resolution passed at the Seventh Session of the Board of Governors in Mexico in September 1952. I am pleased to transmit herewith a decision of the Executive Board of the Fund based on this study.

The Fund has concluded that these practices stem from widespread difficulties presently existing in the international payments position of many countries. The Fund’s consideration of this subject has shown that what is referred to as “retention quotas and similar practices” covers a wide range of exchange measures. Certain practices under this heading may be unobjectionable from the point of view of Fund policies. Other practices in this category, however, appear to result in adverse effects on exchange stability and to cause unnecessary damage to member countries. They also may lead to the adoption of retaliatory measures. The interest of the Fund in these matters clearly follows from the terms of Article VIII containing the general obligations of members with respect to the avoidance of exchange restrictions, discriminatory currency arrangements, and multiple currency practices, and Article XIV dealing with these exchange measures during the transitional period.

In dealing with retention quotas and similar practices, the Board has not intended to change existing Fund standards and procedures with respect to exchange restrictions, discriminatory currency arrangements, and multiple currency practices. Specifically, there was no intention to affect the existing requirements of prior consultation and approval with respect to measures of this character. Those requirements, so far as they concern multiple currency practices, were communicated to members in the Fund’s letter of December 19, 1947 (Appendix II of the Fund’s Annual Report of 1948). Accordingly, it is expected that members intended to maintain, introduce, or enlarge those retention quotas and similar practices which constitute exchange restrictions, multiple currency practices, or discriminatory currency arrangements will act in accordance with existing Fund requirements.

The decision recognizes that it is not practicable to deal with all of these practices on a general basis. The Fund, therefore, wishes to deal with these arrangements on a case-to-case basis. We shall communicate as quickly as practicable with members using these practices. We are confident that members will cooperate in these individual discussions in order to enable the Fund to reach appropriate conclusions.

Decision No. 201-(53/29)

May 4, 1953

Discrimination for Balance of Payments Reasons

The following decision deals exclusively with discriminatory restrictions imposed for balance of payments reasons.

In some countries, considerable progress has already been made towards the elimination of discriminatory restrictions; in others, much remains to be done. Recent international financial developments have established an environment favorable to the elimination of discrimination for balance of payments reasons. There has been a substantial improvement in the reserve positions of the industrial countries in particular and widespread moves to external convertibility have taken place.

Under these circumstances, the Fund considers that there is no longer any balance of payments justification for discrimination by members whose current receipts are largely in externally convertible currencies. However, the Fund recognizes that where such discriminatory restrictions have been long maintained, a reasonable amount of time may be needed fully to eliminate them. But this time should be short and members will be expected to proceed with all feasible speed in eliminating discrimination against member countries, including that arising from bilateralism.

Notwithstanding the extensive moves toward convertibility, a substantial portion of the current receipts of some countries is still subject to limitations on convertibility, particularly in payments relations with state-trading countries. In the case of these countries the Fund will be prepared to consider whether balance of payments considerations would justify the maintenance of some degree of discrimination, although not as between countries having externally convertible currencies. In this connection the Fund wishes to reaffirm its basic policy on bilateralism as stated in its decision of June 22, 1955.

Decision No. 955-(59/45)

October 23, 1959

Article VIII and Article XIV

There has been in recent years a substantial improvement in the balance of payments and the reserve positions of a number of Fund members which has led to important and widespread moves to the external convertibility of many currencies. Most international transactions are now carried on with convertible currencies, and many countries have progressed far with the removal of restrictions on payments. In consequence of these developments, it seems likely that a number of members of the Fund either have reached or are nearing a position in which they can consider the feasibility of formally accepting the obligations of Article VIII, Sections 2, 3, and 4. Previous decisions taken by the Fund, such as those on multiple currency practices, bilateral arrangements, discriminatory restrictions maintained for balance of payments purposes, and payments restrictions for security reasons, indicate the Fund’s attitude on these matters. The present decision has been adopted as an additional guide to members in pursuance of the purposes of the Fund as set forth in Article I of the Articles of Agreement.

1. Article VIII provides in Sections 2 and 3 that members shall not impose or engage in certain measures, namely restrictions on the making of payments and transfers for current international transactions, discriminatory currency arrangements, or multiple currency practices, without the approval of the Fund. The guiding principle in ascertaining whether a measure is a restriction on payments and transfers for current transactions under Article VIII, Section 2, is whether it involves a direct governmental limitation on the availability or use of exchange as such. Members in doubt as to whether any of their measures do or do not fall under Article VIII may wish to consult the Fund thereon.

2. In accordance with Article XIV, Section 3,1 members may at any time notify the Fund that they accept the obligations of Article VIII, Sections 2, 3, and 4, and no longer avail themselves of the transitional provisions of Article XIV. Before members give notice that they are accepting the obligations of Article VIII, Sections 2, 3, and 4, it would be desirable that, as far as possible, they eliminate measures which would require the approval of the Fund, and that they satisfy themselves that they are not likely to need recourse to such measures in the foreseeable future. If members, for balance of payments reasons, propose to maintain or introduce measures which require approval under Article VIII, the Fund will grant approval only where it is satisfied that the measures are necessary and that their use will be temporary while the member is seeking to eliminate the need for them. As regards measures requiring approval under Article VIII and maintained or introduced for nonbalance of payments reasons, the Fund believes that the use of exchange systems for nonbalance of payments reasons should be avoided to the greatest possible extent, and is prepared to consider with members the ways and means of achieving the elimination of such measures as soon as possible. Members having measures needing approval under Article VIII should find it useful to consult with the Fund before accepting the obligations of Article VIII, Sections 2, 3, and 4.

3. If members at any time maintain measures which are subject to Sections 2 and 3 of Article VIII, they shall consult with the Fund with respect to the further maintenance of such measures. Consultations with the Fund under Article VIII are not otherwise required or mandatory. However, the Fund is able to provide technical facilities and advice, and to this end, or as a means of exchanging views on monetary and financial developments, there is great merit in periodic discussions between the Fund and its members even though no questions arise involving action under Article VIII. Such discussions would be planned between the Fund and the member, including agreement on place and timing, and would ordinarily take place at intervals of about one year.

4. Fund members which are contracting parties to the GATT and which impose import restrictions for balance of payments reasons will facilitate the work of the Fund by continuing to send information concerning such restrictions to the Fund. This will enable the Fund and the member to join in an examination of the balance of payments situation in order to assist the Fund in its collaboration with the GATT. The Fund, by agreement with members which are not contracting parties to the GATT and which impose import restrictions for balance of payments reasons, will seek to obtain information relating to such restrictions.

Decision No. 1034-(60/27)

June 1, 1960

Payments Arrears

The Executive Board has reviewed the Fund’s policy with respect to payments arrears. The Fund shall be guided by the approach in the conclusions set forth [below].

Decision No. 3153-(70/95)

October 26, 1970


1. Undue delays in the availability or use of exchange for current international transactions that result from a governmental limitation give rise to payments arrears and are payments restrictions under Article VIII, Section 2(a), and Article XIV, Section 2. The limitation may be formalized, as for instance compulsory waiting periods for exchange, or informal or ad hoc.

2. The need for the Fund to define its policy on payments arrears is emphasized by the fact that restrictions resulting in payments arrears arising from informal or ad hoc measures do particular harm to a country’s international financial relationships because of the uncertainty they generate. This uncertainty is particularly harmful to the smooth functioning of the international payments system and has pronounced adverse effects on the creditworthiness of the debtor country which may extend beyond the period of the existence of the restrictions.

3. In the light of these considerations it is believed that the Fund should aim in consultation reports at a more systematic treatment of restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions that produce payments arrears. In all cases where payments arrears arise from a governmental limitation on, or interference with, the availability of foreign exchange at the time a payment for a current international transaction falls due, or with the timely transfer of the proceeds of such transactions, the payments arrears should be treated in the consultation papers as evidence of a payments restriction requiring approval in Article VIII or Article XIV consultation decisions. The staff, in the consultation discussions, will have to establish whether payments arrears exist by ascertaining whether there has been a substantial delay beyond that usually required for ascertaining the bona fides of exchange applications or the time that can be regarded as normally required for the administrative processing of applications for exchange. If payments arrears exist and approval of the restriction giving rise to them is requested by the member, the member should be expected to submit a satisfactory program for their elimination. Approval if given should be only for a temporary period and generally with a fixed terminal date. Because of the difficulty in surveillance, approval should be wherever feasible in terms of the level of arrears outstanding. The program for the elimination of the payments arrears should provide for a maximum permissible delay to which a payment or transfer could be subjected, together with a phased reduction in the outstanding level.

4. …1

Corresponds to Article XIV, Section 1 of the Articles of Agreement after the Second Amendment.

See page 287.

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