Josh Frydenberg has called for a revitalisation of the Bretton Woods system amid economic uncertainty and geopolitical upheaval.
In a speech at the Australian National University, Mr Frydenberg said that the Bretton Woods organisations – the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and World Trade Organisation (WTO) – had ushered in an age of prosperity that had recently been stymied by rising protectionism and great power competition.
“The establishment of these institutions, new rules and norms allowed Australia and other nations to capitalise on the opening up of trade and the scientific transformation post-war as innovation moved from military to non-military use,” Mr Frydenberg said.
However, the Bretton Woods institutions have found their influence lessened in recent years with the US-China trade war and pushback against other global organisations, like the United Nations.
Mr Frydenberg called for overhauls to the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism and for a change in the governance structure of the IMF to reflect the greater role being played by emerging economies, especially in Asia.
Mr Frydenberg highlighted Australia’s strong economic, political, and strategic ties as making Australia well positioned to play a role in the transformation of the institutions.
“Australia has benefited greatly from the transformation of the global economy of which we have been a key part,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“But there are significant challenges ahead. Working together and invoking the spirit of Bretton Woods we can meet these challenges and secure peace and prosperity for all.”
The comments clash with those of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has previously decried “negative globalism” and an “unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy”.
“Building walls to stand against the rising tides of international change is ultimately self-defeating,” Mr Frydenberg said.
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