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Since the mid-20th century, the de facto world currency has been the United States dollar. According to Robert Gilpin in Global Political Economy: Understanding the International Economic Order (2001): "Somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of international financial transactions are denominated in dollars. For decades the dollar has also been the world's principal reserve currency; in 1996, the dollar accounted for approximately two-thirds of the world's foreign exchange reserves" (255).

Many of the world's currencies are pegged against the dollar. Some countries, such as Ecuador, El Salvador, and Panama, have gone even further and eliminated their own currency (see dollarization) in favor of the United States dollar. The U.S. dollar continues to dominate global currency reserves, with 63.9% held in dollars, as compared to 26.5% held in euros (see Reserve Currency).

Euro[edit]

The euro inherited its status as a major reserve currency from the German mark (DM) and its contribution to official reserves has increased as banks seek to diversify their reserves and trade in the eurozone expands.[4]

As with the dollar, some of the world's currencies are pegged against the euro. They are usually Eastern European currencies like the Bulgarian lev, plus several west African currencies like the Cape Verdean escudo and the CFA franc. Other European countries, while not being EU members, have adopted the euro due to currency unions with member states, or by unilaterally superseding their own currencies: Andorra, Monaco, Kosovo, Montenegro, San Marino, and Vatican City.

As of December 2006, the euro surpassed the dollar in the combined value of cash in circulation. The value of euro notes in circulation has risen to more than €610 billion, equivalent to US$800 billion at the exchange rates at the time (today equivalent to circa US$968 billion).[5]

Chinese renminbi[edit]

As a result of the rapid internationalization of the renminbi,[6][7] it is currently the world's 8th most widely traded currency.[8]

Recent proposals (21st Century)[edit]

Governmental[edit]

On 16 March 2009, in connection with the April 2009 G20 summit, the Kremlin called for a supranational reserve currency as part of a reform of the global financial system. In a document containing proposals for the G20 meeting, it suggested that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (or an Ad Hoc Working Group of G20) should be instructed to carry out specific studies to review the following options:

On 24 March 2009, Zhou Xiaochuan, President of the People's Bank of China, called for "creative reform of the existing international monetary system towards an international reserve currency," believing it would "significantly reduce the risks of a future crisis and enhance crisis management capability."[11] Zhou suggested that the IMF's special drawing rights (a currency basket comprising dollars, euros, yen, and sterling) could serve as a super-sovereign reserve currency, not easily influenced by the policies of individual countries. US President Obama, however, rejected the suggestion stating that "the dollar is extraordinarily strong right now."[12] At the G8 summit in July 2009, the Russian president expressed Russia's desire for a new supranational reserve currency by showing off a coin minted with the words "unity in diversity". The coin, an example of a future world currency, emphasized his call for creating a mix of regional currencies as a way to address the global financial crisis.[13]

On 30 March 2009, at the Second South America-Arab League Summit in Qatar, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proposed the creation of a petro-currency. It would be backed by the huge oil reserves of the oil producing countries.[14]

Single world currency[edit]

An alternative definition of a world or global currency refers to a hypothetical single global currency or supercurrency, as the proposed terra or the DEY (acronym for Dollar Euro Yen),[15] produced and supported by a central bank which is used for all transactions around the world, regardless of the nationality of the entities (individuals, corporations, governments, or other organizations) involved in the transaction. No such official currency currently exists.

Advocates, notably Keynes,[16] of a global currency often argue[16] that such a currency would not suffer from inflation, which, in extreme cases, has had disastrous effects for economies. In addition, many[16] argue that a single global currency would make conducting international business more efficient and would encourage foreign direct investment (FDI).

There are many different variations of the idea, including a possibility that it would be administered by a global central bank that would define its own monetary standard or that it would be on the gold standard.[17] Supporters often point to the euro as an example of a supranational currency successfully[dubious ] implemented by a union of nations with disparate languages, cultures, and economies. Alternatively, digital gold currency can be viewed as an example of how global currency can be implemented without achieving national government consensus.

A limited alternative would be a world reserve currency issued by the International Monetary Fund, as an evolution of the existing special drawing rights and used as reserve assets by all national and regional central banks. On 26 March 2009, a UN panel of expert economists called for a new global currency reserve scheme to replace the current US dollar-based system. The panel's report pointed out that the "greatly expanded SDR (special drawing rights), with regular or cyclically adjusted emissions calibrated to the size of reserve accumulations, could contribute to global stability, economic strength and global equity."[18]

In addition to the idea of a single world currency, some evidence suggests the world may evolve multiple global currencies that exchange on a singular market system. The rise of digital global currencies owned by privately held companies or groups such as Ven[19] suggest that multiple global currencies may offer wider formats for trade as they gain strength and wider acceptance.

Difficulties[edit]

Limited additional benefit with extra cost[edit]

Some economists argue that a single world currency is unnecessary, because the U.S. dollar is providing many of the benefits of a world currency while avoiding some of the costs.[20] If the world does not form an optimum currency area, then it would be economically inefficient for the world to share one currency.

Economically incompatible nations[edit]

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