Multiple Currency Practices
- International Monetary Fund
- Published Date:
- June 1981
Statement to Members Transmitting Fund’s Decisions on Multiple Currency Practices
The letter to members concerning multiple currency practices and the accompanying statement of the Fund’s decisions with respect to such practices are agreed as revised (Executive Board Document No. 235, Revision 2) and shall be sent without delay to all members. The texts of earlier decisions on the same subject are modified as necessary to correspond with the agreed statement.
Decision No. 237-2
December 18, 1947
Letter to Members
December 19, 1947
To All Members:
During the past several months the Fund has been giving special consideration to multiple currency practices. I am writing to all of the members today in order to acquaint them with the results of our considerations. Enclosed is a memorandum containing the pertinent decisions taken by the Executive Board. These set forth the general lines of the Fund’s policies toward multiple currency practices which the Fund has adopted to date, together with the obligations of the members and the jurisdiction of the Fund upon which the development of Fund policy will necessarily be based.
We intend, as rapidly as may be possible under the circumstances, to discuss with each member now engaging in a multiple currency practice how this general policy will be applied to its individual problems. In the meantime, all of the members are requested to be guided by the enclosed memorandum and to initiate with the Fund discussions of any pressing problems which may arise.
Multiple Currency Practices
This memorandum contains the decisions the Fund has so far taken concerning its policies toward multiple currency practices, and clarification of its jurisdiction with respect to such practices.
The exchange systems of the members who engage in multiple currency practices are frequently complex. For this reason various difficulties will be involved in the modification and removal of the practices, and the policy of the Fund in this regard must develop progressively as its consultations with the members concerned reveal problems which might otherwise be overlooked. The policies set forth below have been agreed as a basis for the initiation of discussions with the members affected:
1. Consultation. There should be continuing consultation on multiple currency practices between the Fund and the members concerned. Members should, as a minimum, consult the Fund before introducing a multiple currency practice, before making a change in any of the multiple rates of exchange, before reclassifying transactions subject to different rates, and before making any other type of significant change in their exchange systems.
2. Stability and Restrictions. In most cases multiple currency practices are both systems of exchange rates and restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions. Whenever it is inconvenient to deal with both aspects of such multiple currency practice simultaneously, priority should be given to those features which affect exchange stability and orderly exchange arrangements among members.
3. Removal. Early steps should be taken toward the removal of multiple currency practices which are clearly not necessary for balance of payments reasons. In such cases, ample time should be provided for members to take the necessary steps and to install appropriate substitutes where necessary.
The Fund will encourage members engaging in multiple currency practices for balance of payments reasons to establish as soon as possible conditions which would permit their removal, with the general objective of seeking removal not later than the end of the transitional period.
Where complete removal by the end of the transitional period proves impossible, the Fund will assist the members concerned to eliminate the most dangerous aspects of their multiple currency practices and to exercise reasonable control over those retained.
B. Specific Practices
1. Fixed Exchange Rates. When a multiple currency system includes fixed exchange rates, members should consult with the Fund on any changes in their practices, whether such changes concern the rates of exchange or the classification of transactions subject to particular practices. Should the step contemplated by a member be a part of a program made in agreement with the Fund, the member could, of course, act without prior consultation.
When a mutiple rate system is used for restrictions on current and capital transactions, the elimination of the restriction on current transactions would be highly commendable even though restrictions on capital transactions might have to be retained.
2. Taxes on Exchange Drafts. The use by members of taxes on exchange drafts resulting in an unusually large difference between buying and selling rates for a currency is not in accord with the objectives of the Fund Agreement and the Fund shall, in consultation with members concerned, seek the elimination of such practices as rapidly as practicable.
3. Fluctuating Rates of Exchange.
(a) Free Markets. When a multiple currency practice includes a free market with a fluctuating rate, the member should agree with the Fund on the scope of the transactions permitted to take place in that market. Any changes in the scope of these transactions should, of course, be subject to agreement with the Fund. The objective should be to eliminate the fluctuations in the free market as soon as such action is reasonably practicable. When it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate such fluctuations, the Fund will encourage members to exclude current transactions from the free market to the extent that this would be reasonable in the circumstances of each case.
(b) The Auction System.
(i) The purpose for which an auction system is to be used should be agreed with the Fund and any change in its scope should be agreed with the Fund. The fewer the transactions subject to the auction rate, and the less essential the goods involved, the better.
(ii) Depending upon the circumstances, the monetary authorities should undertake to keep the auction rate stable, or to maintain it within certain limits, or to make every effort to prevent brisk fluctuations.
(iii) Wherever auction rates exist or are proposed, the circumstances should be examined in order to determine whether a fixed rate should be substituted for the auction rate.
(iv) If, as is usually the case where an auction system exists, a reduction of the money supply is desirable, the proceeds of the auction market should be directed toward this end.
II. Jurisdiction of the Fund
Multiple currency practices, besides being in most cases restrictive practices, also constitute systems of exchange rates. Since exchange stability depends on effective rates, the general purposes of the Fund and the members’ undertakings of Article IV, Section 4(a)* “to collaborate with the Fund to promote exchange stability, to maintain orderly exchange arrangements with other members, and to avoid competitive exchange alterations” are fundamental considerations in an interpretation of the rights and obligations of members under Article XIV, Section 2 or Article VIII, Section 3, to maintain, introduce, or adapt multiple currency practices. Subject to these general principles, the following conclusions are agreed with respect to the Fund’s jurisdiction and the obligations of members.*
A. Practices Subject to Article VIII, Section 3
1. Maintenance. A member maintaining multiple currency practices at the time the Agreement entered into force, if it does not take advantage of Article XIV, is required by Article VIII, Section 3, to consult with the Fund for their progressive removal or obtain the Fund’s approval for their maintenance.
2. Introduction. Members that have not been occupied by the enemy, and former enemy-occupied members which have not taken advantage of the transitional arrangements, whether or not they have existing multiple rate practices, may introduce a new practice only under Article VIII, Section 3, which provides expressly for the necessity of approval by the Fund.
3. Adaptation. If a multiple currency practice is in force by virtue of Article VIII, Section 3, the member may change or adapt such practice only after consulting with the Fund and obtaining its approval.
4. Reclassification. Members maintaining multiple currency practices under Article VIII, Section 3, may reclassify commodities subject to the practices only after consultation with the Fund and Fund approval.
B. Practices Subject to Article XIV, Section 2
1. Restrictive Nature. Multiple currency practices, when applied to current international transactions, constitute a type of restriction on payments and transfers for current international transactions for the purposes of Article XIV, Section 2.
2. Representations by the Fund. The following language in Article XIV, Section 4* of the Fund Agreement:
“The Fund may, if it deems such action necessary in exceptional circumstances, make representations to any member that conditions are favorable for the withdrawal of any particular restriction, or for the general abandonment of restrictions, inconsistent with the provisions of any other article of this Agreement”.
(a) applies at any time after the entry into force of the Fund Agreement and
(b) gives to the Fund the power to determine what is meant by “in exceptional circumstances”.
3. Maintenance. Members may maintain multiple currency practices during the transitional period under the provisions of Article XIV, Section 2, but only if the maintenance of such practices is necessary for settling members’ balance of payments in a manner which does not unduly encumber their access to the resources of the Fund. Members are under a duty to withdraw such practices as soon as they are able without them to settle their balance of payments in a manner which will not unduly encumber their access to the resources of the Fund. Moreover, under Section 4 of Article XIV,* the Fund has certain powers to make representations in exceptional circumstances, of which it is the judge, that conditions are favorable for the withdrawal of any particular restriction. The Fund may exercise this power even if a particular restriction is justified for balance of payments reasons, if the conditions are favorable for the substitution of some practice which is not inconsistent with the purposes of the Agreement.
4. Introduction. Only former enemy-occupied members, which are availing themselves of the transitional provisions, and then whether or not they have existing multiple currency practices, may introduce a new multiple currency practice under Article XIV, Section 2, provided the Fund agrees with the member that the practice is necessary and does not find that it is inconsistent with the purposes of the Fund Agreement or with Article IV, Section 4 (a).*
5. Adaptation. A member maintaining multiple currency practices under Article XIV may adapt the existing restrictions, provided such action is consistent with the obligations of Article IV, Section 4(a)* and the Fund is satisfied that the adaptation is dictated by “changing circumstances”. A duty to consult with and obtain the approval of the Fund before changing the practice is implicit in both Article IV, Section 4 (a)* and in Article XIV, Section 2. The Fund has the power under Article XIV, Section 4,** to represent in exceptional circumstances that circumstances are favorable to withdrawal of a proposal to change an existing multiple currency practice.
6. Reclassification. A member maintaining multiple currency practices under Article XIV may reclassify commodities subject to such practices, under the power to adapt restrictions in Section 2 of Article XIV, and under the same conditions, provided, however, that under the existing restrictions the effective rates are other than parity.
C. Exchange Taxes
When a tax affects an obligation undertaken by the members of the Fund, the relationship between the tax and the obligation is of direct concern to the Fund and subject to its jurisdiction. Whenever exchange taxes are used to modify par values, create multiple currency practices, or introduce restrictive exchange controls, they are subject to the Fund’s jurisdiction. The Fund has authority to deal with these exchange matters irrespective of the official device or procedure involved.
D. Rates Differing from Parity by More than One Per Cent
An effective buying or selling rate which, as the result of official action, e.g. the imposition of an exchange tax, differs from parity by more than one per cent, constitutes a multiple currency practice.
Multiple Currency Practices
I. The Executive Board has considered the staff paper on the “Review of Fund Policies on Multiple Currency Practices” (SM/57/2, Rev. 1/5/3/57)* and is in agreement with the general approach of the paper.
II. Unification of the exchange rates in multiple rate systems is a basic objective of the Fund, and it is satisfying to record that several of the members which had followed such practices have been successful in achieving this objective, and that others have made considerable progress in this direction.
III. In reviewing the experience of the past ten years as summarized in the staff report, the Fund draws special attention to the fact that complex multiple rate systems damage the economies of countries maintaining them and harm other countries. These complex systems are difficult to administer, and involve frequent changes, discrimination, export subsidization, a considerable spread between rates, and undue differentiation between classes of imports.
IV. The Executive Board concludes that it is necessary and feasible to make more rapid progress in simplifying complex multiple rate systems, to remove those aspects of existing systems which adversely affect the interests of other members, and to avoid existing systems becoming more complex. Accordingly the following decision is taken:
1. Early and substantial steps should be taken to simplify complex multiple rate systems. The Fund will not approve such systems unless the countries maintaining them are making reasonable progress toward simplification and ultimate elimination of such systems, or are taking measures or adopting programs which seem likely to result in such progress.
2. As opportunity arises the Fund will continue to press for simplification in all cases where there is clear evidence that the multiple currency system in question is damaging to other members. It will in addition be reluctant to approve changes in multiple rate systems which make them more complex.
3. To assist members to simplify and eliminate complex rate systems the Fund wishes to intensify its collaboration with them. The Fund stands ready to meet members’ requests for technical assistance in the preparation of economic programs and measures directed toward exchange simplification. These may in some cases include arrangements in other directions, especially in the fiscal and trade fields. If the Fund considers the proposed exchange simplification and related economic programs or measures to be adequate and appropriate, it will give sympathetic consideration, if requested, to the use of its resources.
Decision No. 649-(57/33)
June 26, 1957
Policy on Multiple Currency Practices
The Executive Board has reviewed the Fund’s policy with respect to multiple currency practices. The Fund shall be guided by the approach outlined in the conclusions set forth below.
1. Official action should not cause exchange rate spreads and cross rate quotations to differ unreasonably from those that arise from the normal commercial costs and risks of exchange transactions.
(i) Action by a member or its fiscal agencies that of itself gives rise to a spread of more than 2 per cent between buying and selling rates for spot exchange transactions between the member’s currency and any other member’s currency would be considered a multiple currency practice and would require the prior approval of the Fund.
(ii) An exchange spread that arises without official action would not give rise to a multiple currency practice.
(iii) Deviations between the buying and selling rates for spot transactions and for other transactions would not be considered multiple currency practices if they represent the additional costs and exchange risks for these other transactions.
b. Action by a member or its fiscal agencies which results in midpoint spot exchange rates of other members’ currencies against its own currency in a relationship which differs by more than 1 per cent from the midpoint spot exchange rates for these currencies in their principal markets would give rise to a multiple currency practice. If the differentials of more than 1 per cent in these cross rates persist for more than one week, the resulting multiple currency practice would become subject to the approval of the Fund under Article VIII, Section 3.
When difficulties are encountered in the interpretation and application of these criteria in specific cases, particularly concerning the nature of official actions, the staff will present the relevant information to the Executive Board for its determination.
2. The policy of the Fund on the exercise of its approval jurisdiction over exchange measures subject to Article VIII, as set forth in paragraph 2 of Executive Board Decision No. 1034-(60/27), adopted June 1, I960, remains broadly appropriate. In accordance with this policy, the Fund will be prepared to grant approval of multiple currency practices introduced or maintained for balance of payments reasons provided the member represents and the Fund is satisfied that the measures are temporary and are being applied while the member is endeavoring to eliminate its balance of payments problems, and provided they do not give the member an unfair competitive advantage over other members or discriminate among members. The Fund will continue to be very reluctant to grant approval for the maintenance of broken cross exchange rates.
3. In accordance with the Fund’s policy on complex multiple currency practices, as stated in Executive Board Decision No. 649-(57/33), adopted June 26, 1957, the Fund will not approve multiple currency practices under complex multiple rate systems unless the countries maintaining them are making reasonable progress toward simplification and ultimate elimination of such systems, or are taking measures or adopting programs which seem likely to result in such progress.
4. While urging members to apply alternative policies not connected with the exchange system, the Fund will be prepared to grant temporary approval of multiple currency practices introduced or maintained principally for nonbalance of payments reasons, provided that such practices do not materially impede the member’s balance of payments adjustment, do not harm the interests of other members, and do not discriminate among members.
5. To assist the Executive Board in reaching a decision concerning approval or nonapproval of a multiple currency practice subject to approval under Article VIII, Section 3, the reasons underlying the practice and its effects will be analyzed in reports on Article IV consultations or in other staff papers dealing with exchange systems. In all cases, consistent with the cycle of consultations under Article IV, approval will be granted for periods of approximately one year, in order to provide for a continual review by the Executive Board.
Decision No. 6790-(81/43)
March 20, 1981
Voluntary Declaration on Trade and Other Current Account Measures
1. The ad hoc Committee of the Board of Governors on Reform of the International Monetary System and Related Issues, in the detailed statement issued at the end of its sixth and final meeting in Washington on June 12-13, 1974, stressed the importance of avoiding the escalation of restrictions on trade and payments for balance of payments purposes and invited members to subscribe on a voluntary basis to the Declaration concerning trade and other current account measures for balance of payments purposes annexed to its statement. The Executive Directors associate themselves with this invitation.
2. The letter from the Managing Director to members requesting them to inform the Fund whether they subscribe to the Declaration concerning trade and other current account measures for balance of payments purposes, as set forth [below] shall be sent without delay to all members.
Decision No. 4254-(74/75)
June 26, 1974
Letter to Members
The ad hoc Committee of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund on Reform of the International Monetary System and Related Issues, in a statement issued at the end of its sixth and final meeting in Washington on June 12-13, 1974, has stressed the importance of avoiding the escalation of restrictions on trade and payments for balance of payments purposes and has invited members of the Fund “to subscribe on a voluntary basis to the Declaration concerning trade and other current account measures for balance of payments purposes” annexed to the Committee’s statement.
The Executive Directors of the Fund associate themselves with the invitation of the ad hoc Committee and have asked that I send the text of the Declaration for consideration by the authorities of all members.
The text of the Declaration is enclosed with this letter.
I shall be grateful if members will consider subscribing to this Declaration and will inform me whether they do subscribe to it.
Very truly yours,
H. Johannes Witteveen
A. A member of the Fund that subscribes to this Declaration represents thereby that, in addition to observing its obligations with respect to payments restrictions under the Articles of Agreement of the Fund, it will not on its own discretionary authority introduce or intensify trade or other current account measures for balance of payments purposes that are subject to the jurisdiction of the GATT, or recommend them to its legislature, without a prior finding by the Fund that there is balance of payments justification for trade or other current account measures.
B. A member that subscribes to this Declaration will notify the Fund as far in advance as possible of its intention to impose such measures. If circumstances preclude the Fund from making the finding referred to in A above promptly after such notification, the member may nevertheless impose such measures, but will withdraw the measures, within such a period as may be fixed by the Fund in consultation with the member concerned, if the Fund finds that there is no balance of payments justification for trade or other current account measures.
C. In arriving at the findings referred to above, the Executive Directors are requested to take into account the special circumstances of developing countries.
D. In connection with this Declaration arrangements will be made for continuing close coordination between the Fund and the GATT.
E. This Declaration shall become effective among subscribing members when members having 65 per cent of the total voting power of members of the Fund have accepted it, and shall expire two years from the date on which it becomes effective unless it is renewed.