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The G20 and the Politics of International Financial Sector Reform

Mark Beeson and Stephen Bell

CSGR Working Paper No. 174/05

In the aftermath of the East Asian crisis of 1997/98, much attention was given to the need for financial sector reform. While little of substance has changed in the intervening years, a number of potentially important new forums were established to facilitate international cooperation in the financial sector. This paper attempts to provide a theoretical context within which to explore one of these institutions – the G20. By drawing on theories of hegemony and regimes, this paper identifies the – potentially competing - political and institutional logics that have driven what change there has been. The key question we address is whether institutions like the G20 are likely to provide genuine mechanisms for the resolution of collective goods problems, or – in the short term, at least - instruments for hegemonic business as usual. Even if the G20 proves incapable of facilitating international cooperation in the short-term, some sort of multilateral cooperation is ultimately necessary, we suggest, if the international financial system is to avoid the potential dangers of hegemonic instability.

Key words : G20; financial sector reform; financial crises; hegemony; international cooperation.