Chicago Journal of International Law


This Article examines the International Monetary Fund's recent efforts to play an assertive regulatory role with regard to global capital flows. There is a growing consensus among scholars and policymakers that states must carefully manage capital flows and coordinate their policies for doing so, and that direct capital controls are a useful part of their policy toolkit in extreme circumstances. After many years of evolution in this direction, the Fund has become a leading proponent of this consensus, and it now views helping its members manage capital movements to be a prominent part of its post-crisis mandate. This effort has become one of the centerpieces of the Fund's bilateral and multilateral surveillance and its participation in international financial regulation. The Fund has embraced this role against a backdrop of a web of uncoordinated international trade and investment agreements that commit states to liberalize their capital account policies. There is currently no other multilateral framework designed to systematically manage global capital flows. For the foreseeable future, the Fund is in a unique position to play a productive role in helping states craft consistent approaches to capital flows and in promoting international coordination of these policies. It faces significant challenges in the effort, however, including its members' potentially conflicting obligations under trade and investment treaties, uncertainty about its jurisdiction over capital flows, and pervasive limitations of the consultative mode of its surveillance. Thus, the Fund's ambition to help its members manage capital flows will be an important test of its post-crisis mandate to promote global stability.