In early July 1944, delegates from 44 countries gathered at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. A three-week summit took place, at which a new system was agreed to regulate the international monetary and financial order following World War Two. The US was already the world’s commercial powerhouse, having eclipsed the British Empire several decades earlier. America was also on course to be among the victors of “Europe’s conflict”, even though its economy was largely unscathed by war. As such, Bretton Woods was US-dominated and produced a settlement largely on US terms.
Seventy years ago this week, that fateful summit ended. Its close marked the moment the dollar’s unquestionable supremacy was secured. Since then, global commerce has been conducted largely in dollars and leading economies have held the greenback as their primary reserve currency. The same system remains in tact today, with the lion’s share of commercial settlements worldwide still clearing the US banking system – even if the parties involved have nothing to do with the States.