US must win CBDC race to maintain dollar’s global reserve currency status: Federal Reserve Governor

The Fed’s governor has argued that The United States must be at the forefront of developing a central bank-issued digital currency, or CBDC, to bolster the role of the U.S. dollar as a global reserve currency.

In a May 24 announcement, Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard asserted that leading CBDC projects could have a “significant effect” on the global financial system, urging the U.S. to ensure it plays a leading role in the burgeoning CBDC ecosystem:

“Given the potential for CBDCs to gain prominence in cross-border payments and the reserve currency role of the dollar, it is vital for the United States to be at the table in the development of cross-border standard.”

The announcement notes The Fed is “sharpening its focus” on four key areas of CBDC development — “the growing role of digital private money, the migration to digital payments, plans for the use of foreign CBDCs in cross-border payments, and concerns about financial exclusion.”

The Governor offered some of the potential benefits to adopting launching a CBDC, asserting the covid-19 pandemic had “accelerated the migration to digital payments” among U.S. households and noting that it took “weeks” for prepaid debit cards to be distributed as relief to households that did not have up-to-date bank information filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

“We must explore—and try to anticipate—the extent to which households’ and businesses’ needs and preferences may migrate further to digital payments over time,” she added.

Brainard also emphasized potential risks associated with the widespread adoption of private stablecoins, suggesting that a CBDC could provide the utilities and benefits associated with existing USD stable tokens without undermining the government’s control over monetary policy.

“Unlike central bank fiat currencies, stablecoins do not have legal tender status[,] there is a risk that the widespread use of private monies for consumer payments could fragment parts of the U.S. payment system in ways that impose burdens and raise costs for households and businesses,” she said.

“In any assessment of a CBDC, it is important to be clear about what benefits a CBDC would offer over and above current and emerging payments options, what costs and risks a CBDC might entail, and how it might affect broader policy objectives.”

On May 20, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell announced that the Fed will compile a paper discussing the benefits and risks of CBDC, stating: “As stablecoins’ use increases, so must our attention to the appropriate regulatory and oversight framework.”

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