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Benn Steil

Senior Fellow and Director of International Economics

Expertise

International finance; financial markets; economic policy.

Programs

McKinsey Executive Roundtable Series in International Economics , C. Peter McColough Roundtable Series on International Economics , Center for Geoeconomic Studies Roundtable Series in International Finance

Bio

Dr. Benn Steil is senior fellow and director of international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.  He is also the founding editor of International Finance, a top scholarly economics journal, and lead writer of the Council’s Geo-Graphics economics blog.  Prior to his joining the Council in 1999, he was director of the International Economics Programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.  He came to the Institute in 1992 from a Lloyd’s of London Tercentenary Research Fellowship at Nuffield College, Oxford, where he received his MPhil and DPhil (PhD) in economics.  He also holds a BSc in economics summa cum laude from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Steil has written and spoken widely on international finance, monetary policy, financial markets, and economic history.  He has testified before the U.S. House, Senate, and CFTC on financial market and monetary issues.  He is a regular op-ed contributor at the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.  His latest book, The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order, won the 2013 Spear’s Book Award in Financial History, took third prize in CFR’s 2014 Arthur Ross Book Award competition, was shortlisted for the 2014 Lionel Gelber Prize (“the world’s most important prize for non-fiction,” according to The Economist), and was the top book-of-the-year choice in Bloomberg’s 2013 poll of global policymakers and CEOs.  The book has been called “a triumph of economic and diplomatic history” by the Financial Times, “a superb history” by the Wall Street Journal, “the gold standard on its subject” by the New York Times, and “the publishing event of the season” by Bloomberg’s Tom Keene.  His previous book, Money, Markets and Sovereignty, was awarded the 2010 Hayek Book Prize.  Financial Statecraft: The Role of Financial Markets in American Foreign Policy was named one of the “Best Business Books of 2006” by Library Journal and an “Outstanding Academic Title of 2006” by Choice.

The Marshall Plan

When economic and political turmoil hit a critical part of the world, calls pour forth for "a new Marshall Plan" to alleviate hardship, calm passions, and stir hope. Hillary Clinton invoked the Marshall Plan in the context of the Arab Spring; Peer Steinbrueck contrasted it glowingly to Angela Merkel's policies toward the eurozone; George Soros pleaded for one to counter Russia in Ukraine. Indeed, the Marshall Plan, the most ambitious and visionary element of the United States' immediate post–World War II foreign policy, has become virtually synonymous with enlightened foreign intervention. Seen widely in hindsight as the best of times for American diplomacy, the years of the Marshall Plan were also among the most fraught and challenging for those who crafted it under enormous strain in a matter of months. Much as my most recent book, The Battle of Bretton Woods, was a response to calls from world leaders for "a new Bretton Woods" in the wake of the financial crisis, my forthcoming book, A World Upended: The Making and Meaning of the Marshall Plan, will be a response to the current conjurings of that legend.

This project is made possible through the support of the Smith Richardson Foundation.

Geo-Graphics

Can hidden Chinese buying of U.S. Treasuries through Belgium explain curious movements in U.S. asset prices? Is the BRICS contingent reserve arrangement a substitute for the International Monetary Fund? What can the price of iPad Minis tell us about currency wars? Emma Smith and I examine these and other geoeconomic questions, with great visuals, in our regular Geo-Graphics blog posts.

International Finance

Published three times a year, International Finance (IF), which I edit for Wiley publishers, is a top scholarly journal that takes on the challenging, topical questions that central bankers and treasury officials care about. In addition to our double-refereed articles, IF publishes extended book reviews and original commentary pieces by top current and former policymakers, like Alan Greenspan. Free online access to one article in the most recent issue is always available on the Center for Geoeconomic Studies web page.

Featured Publications

All Publications

Article

Will Brexit Affect U.S. Consumer Confidence? The Outcome May Determine Our Next President

Authors: Benn Steil and Emma Smith
PBS NewsHour

Benn Steil’s June 24 op-ed on the PBS NewsHour Making$ense site, co-authored with Emma Smith, shows the strong relationship between consumer confidence and presidential elections going back to 1952. Current readings suggest an 80% chance of a Clinton victory, but the Brexit aftermath threatens to knock that down significantly.

See more in United States; United Kingdom; Elections; International Organizations and Alliances

Op-Ed

Why Is Paul Krugman Still Calling for Fiscal Stimulus?

Author: Benn Steil
Weekly Standard

Benn Steil’s latest op-ed in The Weekly Standard examines Paul Krugman’s continuing calls for fiscal stimulus, as well as his defense of government wage intervention and mercantilism.  These have all been grounded in the assertion that the United States is in a “liquidity trap,” in which monetary policy is ineffective.  Steil explains why the theory of liquidity traps is logically inapplicable when the central bank’s policy rate is positive, as it has been in the United States since December, and concludes that it operates as a fig leaf behind which to advocate policies with less scientific rationales.

See more in United States; Monetary Policy

Interactive

Global Monetary Policy Tracker

Authors: Benn Steil and Emma Smith

CFR’s Global Monetary Policy Tracker compiles data from 54 countries around the world to highlight significant global trends in monetary policy. Who is tightening policy? Who is loosening policy? And what is the policy stance of the world as a whole? Learn more!

See more in Global; Economics

Op-Ed

The Trump-Sanders China Syndrome

Authors: Benn Steil and Emma Smith
Wall Street Journal

Benn Steil’s op-ed in the March 30 edition of the Wall Street Journal, co-authored with Emma Smith, looks at presidential campaign charges that China is engaged in “currency manipulation” to boost net exports.  They show that the aims of China’s pegged exchange rate regime have varied over the past two decades, and have not always been mercantilist. In recent months, with capital flowing out of China at a prodigious rate, its interventions have been to keep its currency up—not down.  Launching a trade war with China over currency management, as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders intend, would therefore be nonsensical—as well as damaging to U.S. interests.

See more in China; United States; Monetary Policy; Elections

Article

Selling America Short

Authors: Max Boot and Benn Steil
Weekly Standard

Max Boot and Benn Steil  argue that a Trump presidency would undermine the liberal international order which the United States painstakingly constructed and cultivated after the Second World War. This would, they believe, gravely damage America’s security and standing in the world.

See more in United States; Elections

Op-Ed

Misreading the Fed on a Rate Increase

Author: Benn Steil
Wall Street Journal

Benn Steil’s op-ed explains how the mechanics of implementing Federal Reserve monetary policy have changed radically since the crisis. Little known is that the new plumbing is not actually controlled by the FOMC, but by the much smaller Board of Governors. Given that the Board is decidedly more dovish than the FOMC, Fed watchers focused on the latter may be expecting a more aggressive timing and pace of rate rises than is likely.

See more in United States; Monetary Policy

Op-Ed

Why Did Walmart Raise Its Wages?

Authors: Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
Forbes Online

Benn Steil’s Forbes op-ed with Dinah Walker examines why Walmart is raising its minimum starting wage. Contrary to arguments from popular commentators, there is no logical reason to suggest hidden motives related to political pressure. Walmart remains as relentless on costs as ever; wage pressures in the retail sector, we show, are wholly sufficient to explain the company’s move.

See more in United States; Labor

Op-Ed

The Austerity Wars: Debunking Paul Krugman

Author: Benn Steil
Forbes Online

Benn Steil’s new Forbes op-ed examines Paul Krugman's data analysis purporting to document definitively that "austerity," defined by declines in real government purchases, damaged growth between 2010 and 2013. He shows that this finding collapses entirely when he excludes countries without independent monetary policies, such as those in the Eurozone. For countries with independent monetary policies, changes in real government purchases had no effect on growth.

See more in Global; Monetary Policy

Op-Ed

Europe’s Dodgy Bank Stress Tests

Authors: Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
Wall Street Journal

Benn Steil and Dinah Walker analyze the market reaction to the publication of the European Central Bank's long-awaited bank stress test results. The ECB's coddling of stress-tested banks — through the use of inflated inflation estimates and generous treatment of tax offsets against future profits which may never arise — precipitated a sell-off of bank stocks in a period when broad European indexes were up significantly. Unlike with the successful 2009 U.S. stress tests, there is no credible backstop of public funds available for Eurozone bank recapitalization, which would account for the ECB's reluctance to draw attention to the sector's undercapitalization.

 

See more in Europe; Banks and Banking

Op-Ed

The Myth of Bretton Woods

Author: Benn Steil
Wall Street Journal

Benn Steil's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal debunks the popular notion that the famous 1944 Bretton Woods agreements—establishing the IMF, the World Bank, and a dollar-based fixed exchange-rate system—were important in reviving global trade and growth after World War II. In fact, dependence on bilateral trade and inconvertible currencies was greater in the early postwar years than it was in the 1930s. The Marshall Plan and the creation of the GATT were, he argues, far more powerful instances of effective, enlightened, and enduring internationalism emerging from the war.

See more in Global; Economics

Foreign Affairs Article

Taper Trouble

Author: Benn Steil

Benn Steil's essay in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs looks at the international consequences of U.S. monetary policy action. He argues that developing-nation governments are coming to see the need for engineering current-account surpluses and large dollar-reserve stockpiles as a means of insulating themselves against Fed-induced capital-flow whiplash. As this amounts to "currency manipulation" in the eyes of U.S. policymakers, trade tensions are apt to grow.

See more in Ukraine; United States; Monetary Policy; International Finance

Recent Activity from Geo-Graphics

Events

McKinsey Executive Roundtable Series in International Economics

Director: Benn Steil, Senior Fellow and Director of International Economics
September 1, 2002—December 14, 2011

This speaker series features panel debates involving the world's most important economic policymakers and thinkers.

This meeting series is sponsored by the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies and the Corporate Program.

C. Peter McColough Roundtable Series on International Economics

Director: Benn Steil, Senior Fellow and Director of International Economics
October 1, 1996—Present

Ten times a year, this prestigious speaker series brings to CFR a leading economic policymaker or commentator to address global issues.

This meeting series is sponsored by the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies and the Corporate Program.

CFR Events

Conference Call ⁄ New York

Media Call: Global Implications of the Federal Reserve's Decision to Hike Rates

December 17, 2015 2:00 p.m.-2:50 p.m.

December 17, 2015

This meeting is not for attribution.

Meeting

Media Call: The Federal Reserve's Interest Rate Decision

Speakers Benn Steil

Senior Fellow and Director of International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations

, Robert Kahn

Steven A. Tananbaum Senior Fellow for International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations


Presider Michael A. Levi

David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

The Implications of the Federal Reserve Interest Rate Decision

September 18, 2015 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.


The Implications of the Federal Reserve Interest Rate Decision

September 18, 2015 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

September 18, 2015

This meeting is on the record.

Read Listen

Meeting

Benn Steil on Federal Reserve Exit Strategy

Speaker Benn Steil

Council on Foreign Relations


Presider Michelle Caruso-Cabrera

CNBC

May 7, 2013

This meeting is on the record.

Read Listen

Meeting

Listen-Only Teleconference: Can the Eurozone be Rescued?

October 27, 2011 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. - Conference Call

This meeting is on the record.

Listen

Meeting

Fixing Finance: Reactions and Over-Reactions

Speakers Peter R. FisherBlackRock, Benn SteilCouncil on Foreign Relations, David S. ScharfsteinHarvard Business School
Presider Alan S. MurrayWall Street Journal
May 12, 2009 11:00 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch

Meeting ⁄ Washington

Money, Markets, and Sovereignty

Speaker Benn SteilSenior Fellow and Director of International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations; Coauthor, "Money, Markets, and Sovereignty"
Presider Reuben Jeffery IIIFormer Undersecretary for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State
April 20, 2009 6:00–6:30 p.m. - Reception
6:30–7:30 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

Listen

Meeting ⁄ New York

The G-20 London Summit

Speakers Richard ClaridaC. Lowell Harriss Professor of Economics and International Affairs, Columbia University; Executive Vice President and Global Strategic Advisor, PIMCO, Benn SteilSenior Fellow and Director of International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations
April 1, 2009 7:45–8:00 a.m. - Breakfast Reception
8:00–9:00 a.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch

Meeting ⁄ New York

Money, Markets, and Sovereignty

Speaker Benn SteilSenior Fellow and Director of International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations
March 10, 2009 5:30–7:00 p.m. - Cocktail Reception and Book Signing with informal remarks by Richard N. Haass at 6:00 PM

This meeting is on the record.

Listen

Meeting ⁄ New York

McKinsey Executive Roundtable Series in International Economics: Crisis and Capitalism: Does History Suggest Where We're Headed?

Speakers Michael BordoProfessor of Economics and Director of the Center for Monetary and Financial History, Rutgers University, Jerry MullerProfessor of History, Catholic University of America, Robert J. ShillerArthur M. Okun Professor of Economics, Yale University, Richard SyllaHenry Kaufman Professor of History of Financial Institutions and Markets, New York University
Presider Benn SteilSenior Fellow and Director of International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations
January 12, 2009 7:45–8:00 a.m. - Breakfast
8:00–9:15 a.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch

Meeting ⁄ New York

The Financial Crisis: Where Do We Go From Here?

Speakers Nouriel RoubiniProfessor of Economics, Stern School of Business, New York University; Chairman, RGE Monitor, Brad W. SetserFellow for Geoeconomics, Council on Foreign Relations, Benn SteilDirector of International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider Mortimer B. ZuckermanEditor-in-Chief, U.S. News & World Report
September 25, 2008 7:45–8:00 a.m. - Breakfast Reception
8:00–9:00 a.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch

Meeting ⁄ Mineapolis

2008 Foreign Policy Symposium: Foreign Policy Challenges Facing the Next Administration

Speakers Edward AldenBernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Kim R. HolmesVice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, Heritage Foundation, Benn SteilSenior Fellow and Director of International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider Richard N. HaassPresident, Council on Foreign Relations
September 2, 2008

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch

Meeting ⁄ New York

McKinsey Executive Roundtable Series in International Economics: The Falling Dollar - Should We Worry?

Presider Michael J. ElliottEditor, Time International
Speakers Richard ClaridaC. Lowell Harriss Professor of Economics, Columbia University, James GrantFounder and Editor, Grant's Interest Rate Observer, Benn SteilSenior Fellow and Director of International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations, John B. TaylorMary and Robert Raymond Professor of Economics, Stanford University; Bowen H. and Janice Arthur McCoy Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution
December 18, 2007 7:45–8:00 a.m. - Breakfast
8:00–9:15 a.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch

Meeting ⁄ New York

McKinsey Executive Rountable Series in International Economics: The SEC in a Globalizing Securities Market - A Conversation with the Past Four Chairmen

Presider Benn SteilSenior Fellow and Director of International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations
Speakers Richard C. BreedenChairman, Richard C. Breeden & Co.; former Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission (1989-1993), William H. DonaldsonChairman & CEO, Donaldson Enterprises, Inc.; former Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission (2003-2005), Arthur LevittSenior Adviser, The Carlyle Group; former Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission (1993-2001), Harvey L. PittCEO, Kalorama Partners; former Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission (2001-2003)
February 22, 2006

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch

Meeting

The U.S. Financial Sector After the Dodd-Frank Act

Speakers Annette L. Nazareth

Partner, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP; Former Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (2005-2008)

, Patrick M. Parkinson

Managing Director, Promontory Financial Group; Former Director, Division of Banking Supervision and Regulation, Federal Reserve Board

, Benn Steil

Senior Fellow and Director of International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations

This meeting is not for attribution.

Press/Panels

Video Interview

Misreading the Fed on a Rate Increase

Benn Steil explains how the mechanics of implementing Federal Reserve monetary policy have changed radically since the financial crisis.

Watch

Video Interview

Tensions at the G20 Summit

As the G20 Summit continues in St. Petersburg, Benn Steil weighs in on Russian-American relations and emerging economies' concerns about shifts in U.S. monetary policy.

Watch

Video Interview

The Fed's Communication Campaign

Benn Steil discusses the market's reaction to Ben Bernanke's announcement that the Fed may wind down its bond purchasing program.

Watch

Video Interview

G8 Summit: All Talk, No Action?

Benn Steil discusses the G8 Summit and the eurozone economy with Doug Holtz-Eakin and Jeffrey Frankel on The Kudlow Report.

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Video Interview

Who Will be the Next Fed Chairman?

Who might succeed Bernanke as the Fed's Chairman? Benn Steil, Council on Foreign Relations, discusses the future of the Fed.

Watch

Video Interview

Currency Wars and Establishing a New World Currency Order - Is It Possible?

With all the discussion of currency wars, BNN looks at whether establishing a new global monetary order in the fashion of Bretton Woods is ever again possible with Benn Steil, Senior Fellow and Director of International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White and the Making of a New World Order.

Watch

Video Interview

S&P 500 & Dow Close at Record Highs

The markets enjoyed another strong day thanks to strong economic data, reports CNBC's Seema Mody. Benn Steil, Council on Foreign Relations, and Kyle Harrington, Harrington Capital Management, discuss.

Watch

Video Interview

Lang & O'Leary Exchange

Amanda Lang and Kevin O'Leary take you inside the business world with their trade mark thought-provoking coverage. Benn Steil dicusses the significance of Bretton Woods and why he decided to write a book about the conference. Interview begins at 33:50.

Watch

Radio Interview

Examining Bretton Woods

British dominance of global finance came to a screeching halt in the modest rooms of a hotel at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Meghna Chakrabarti, Anthony Brooks, and Benn Steil take a look at the epic showdown that took place there and what we can learn from the architects of the world's financial system.

Listen

Video Interview

Cyprus: Where Things Stand

The EU says Cyprus must put forward an alternative rescue plan, with CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera & Steve Sedgwick. Benn Steil, Council on Foreign Relations, weighs in.

Watch

Video Interview

What's Next for Europe?

CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera reports on the latest details of the impact from the Greek elections; and Andrew Busch, BMO Capital Markets and Benn Steil, Council on Foreign Relations, weigh in. "If we don't recapitalize the Spanish banking sector, we won't have time for the types of reforms we want," says Steil.

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Video Interview

Europe's Crisis Grows

Benn Steil, Council on Foreign Relations, offers insight on what could happen next as Europe's debt crisis escalates.

Watch

Video Interview

A Whiff of Deflation?

CNBC's Larry Kudlow discusses whether deflation could be on the horizon. Rebecca Patterson, JP Morgan Asset Management; Zane Brown, Lord Abbett; and Benn Steil, Council on Foreign Relations, also weigh in on the markets.

Watch

Video Interview

Is There a European 'Doomsday' in the Making?

Benn Steil, Council on Foreign Relations, discusses France's new Socialist president and Greece's political system, as voters rebel against the bitter pill of austerity and recession.

Watch

Video Interview

Will Greek Deal Save Europe?

Benn Steil, Council on Foreign Relations, and Dan Speckhard, former U.S. ambassador to Greece, discuss Greece's second bailout package and how it will impact Europe's ability to fix its debt troubles.

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Video Interview

Draghi: 2012 Outlook No Better for EU

Will the euro zone get its act together in 2012? Discussing what Europe needs to do to get out of trouble, Dan Greenhaus, BTIG, and Benn Steil, Council on Foreign Relations.

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Video Interview

Will the ECB Break Out the Bazooka?

Benn Steil, Director of International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations, discusses the EU agreement and whether the ECB will break out a bazooka and start buying up sovereign debt.

Watch

Video Interview

Good News Out of Europe?

CNBC's Simon Hobbs has the story on France and Germany's efforts to get fiscal integration among eurozone countries. Discussing whether Europe will get it done, Benn Steil, Council on Foreign Relations; Andrew Busch, BMO Capital Markets; and Nicholas Burns, Harvard University professor.

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Video Interview

Is Europe Back From the Brink?

Do Greece and Italy's new leaders have what it takes to fix the eurozone crisis? Benn Steil, Council on Foreign Relations, and Philippa Malmgren, Principalis Asset Management, weigh in.

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Video Interview

Greek Government Collapse Imminent

The government of Prime Minister George Papandreou is teetering on the verge of collapse after he abandoned the referendum on the EU package. With NBC's Michelle Kosinski; Benn Steil, Council on Foreign Relations; and Nick Economides, Advisor to Central Bank of Greece.

Watch

Video Interview

What's Next in the Euro Zone?

CNBC's Simon Hobbs, reports the latest details on fears that the euro summit deals are falling apart. Benn Steil, Council on Foreign Relations, and Jeffrey Frankel, Harvard University professor, provide perspective on what needs to happen to solve Europe's growing crisis.

Watch