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G7 to set out guiding principles on central bank digital currencies

G7 to set out guiding principles on central bank digital currencies

At a meeting of finance chiefs on Wednesday, the nations will call for transparency and privacy protections as part of a common set of rules for the currencies, a draft document shows.
The Group of Seven industrialized nations will call for transparency and privacy protection as part of a common set of guiding principles created for central bank digital currencies, a draft document showed Monday.

The 13-point rules are expected to be endorsed during a meeting of finance chiefs in Washington on Wednesday, and approval would come at a time when China is taking the lead in the global race to launch a CBDC, which has sparked concerns the development could allow stronger surveillance of its economy and people.

While noting the issuance of such currencies is a “sovereign matter,” the document obtained by Kyodo News said that “by setting out a common set of principles, and underscoring the fundamental importance of shared values such as transparency, rule of law and sound economic governance, these principles can guide and inform exploration of retail CBDC in the G-7 and beyond.”

None of the G7 members — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, as well as the European Union — have so far decided to implement a CBDC.

Meanwhile, China is seen by far the closest of any major economy to launching a CBDC, with pilot programs to develop the digital yuan already under way.

According to the draft document, the G7 members will acknowledge the rapid rise in the use of digital payments and how this has transformed the way people and businesses carry out transactions, trends that have been “further accelerated” by the coronavirus pandemic, which has raised the need for contactless payments.

Among issues considered “essential” for any CBDC, the document cited appropriate national regulatory and oversight frameworks for the new payment system, as well as “rigorous” standards of privacy and accountability for the protection of users’ data and transparency on how information will be secured and used.

The paper also pointed to concerns over a significant use of any CBDC by residents of a foreign country, which could lead to currency substitution and loss of monetary sovereignty in both the issuing and foreign country.

“Where overseas access to a jurisdiction’s CBDC could leave other countries vulnerable to currency substitution or other spillovers, collaborative work to design and implement safeguards, particularly through relevant international organizations, can help mitigate negative effects,” it said.

In the case of a CBDC being used to provide international development assistance, the motivation should be transparent, the draft also said.

Other principles mentioned in the draft included a commitment to countering fraud and mitigating the risks of evading financial sanctions, as well as the creation of a resilient system through methods such as crisis simulation and playbook development.

The emphasis on transparency seems to reflect concerns that the rollout of a CBDC would empower the Chinese government through the collection of data on private financial transactions.

The Center for a New American Security, a think tank in Washington, has said in a report on China’s digital currency that a CBDC system “will likely enable the Chinese Communist Party to strengthen its digital authoritarianism domestically and export its influence and standard-setting abroad.”

China’s project “represents a significant risk to the long-held standards of financial privacy upheld in free societies,” the report, released in January, warned.

According to the International Monetary Fund, 110 countries have reached “some stage” of looking into CBDCs. The Bahamas was the first country to officially launch a CBDC.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said last month that the U.S. central bank is working to evaluate whether to issue a CBDC and that it intends to publish a “discussion paper soon” to seek feedback from lawmakers and the public.

The Bank of Japan, meanwhile, started an experiment earlier this year to check the basic functions of a CBDC.

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