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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? Dinah Walker 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

Op-Ed Authors: Benn Steil and Paul Swartz
Wall Street Journal

Benn Steil and Paul Swartz's op-ed in the August 19 edition of the Wall Street Journal explains why the Fed must give up control over the setting of the Fed funds rate--or indeed any interest rate--in order to implement its announced exit strategy. But they argue that evidence from the eurozone suggests strongly that the Fed will be unwilling to relinquish control over rates.

See more in United States; Financial Crises

Op-Ed Authors: Benn Steil and Paul Swartz
Financial News

Benn Steil's August column in Dow Jones' Financial News, co-authored with Paul Swartz, examines the cost of global imbalances from the perspective of the world's leading holders of foreign exchange reserves, China and Japan.

See more in International Finance

Op-Ed

Lessons From the 1930s for a Rising Renminbi

Author: Benn Steil
Financial Times

Benn Steil's op-ed in the June 23rd edition of the Financial Times explains why FDR's Treasury in the 1930s cajoled the Chinese to peg to the dollar, in stark contrast to Obama's Treasury today, which wants the peg ended.  The ambition the two administrations shared is a weaker dollar.

See more in International Finance

Op-Ed Authors: Benn Steil and Paul Swartz
Financial News

Benn Steil's June column in Dow Jones' Financial News, co-authored with Paul Swartz, shows how mass Russian and Chinese selling of Fannie and Freddie debt in 2008 severely exacerbated the financial crisis.  Contrary to the arguments of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and others, they show that there are very real dangers inherent in America's outsized reliance on foreign government financing.

See more in International Finance; Budget, Debt, and Deficits; United States

Op-Ed

Don't Blame the Euro for Greece's Woes

Author: Benn Steil
Financial News

Benn Steil's April column in Dow Jones' Financial News argues that blaming the euro for Greece's woes is misguided.  Greece has been in constant trouble with foreign creditors since its independence in 1832, even under the reign of the "sovereign" drachma.  Since Greece's debt was predominantly euro-denominated even before it joined the eurozone, staying outside it would only have brought the crisis to a head earlier - as with Iceland.

See more in International Finance; Financial Crises

Op-Ed

Try Again

Authors: Benn Steil and Peter J. Wallison
Foreign Policy

Benn Steil and Peter Wallison argue that trying alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before the military commission established by Congress is better than the Obama administration pretending that it accepts the legal implications of acquittal by a civilian court.

See more in Terrorism and the Law

Op-Ed

Central Banks Enter Age of Improvisation

Author: Benn Steil
Financial News

Benn Steil's January column in Dow Jones' Financial News argues that the monetary forces behind the crashes of 1929 and 2008 were very similar.  In the 1920s, as in the mid-2000s, Fed officials mistakenly thought that they had found, in the practice of trying to stabilize a price index, the holy grail of monetary policy. In consequence, central bankers are once again grasping for a new orthodoxy.

See more in International Finance; Financial Crises

Interview

Gauging the Dollar Decline

Interview by: Benn Steil and Roya Wolverson

CFR's Benn Steil says the dollar's continuing decline could result in higher prices for major imports like energy and, in a worst-case scenario, might lead to higher inflation and interest rates.

See more in Financial Crises; Trade

Op-Ed

Dollar Diplomacy Flip-Flop is a Threat to Free Trade

Author: Benn Steil
Financial News

In Benn Steil's October column in Dow Jones' Financial News, he shows that the U.S. only calls for floating exchange rates when it believes the dollar will float down rather than up, and argues that this self-interested inconsistency is encouraging China and America's other major creditors to move away from non-discriminatory multilateral trade as they seek to lessen their dependence on the dollar.

See more in Financial Crises; Trade

Article

The Future of the Dollar: Currency Challenges in a Globalized World

Author: Benn Steil
Harvard International Review

Benn Steil argues that the world has no attractive alternatives to the current dollar-based international monetary system, but that the dollar's days of coasting on the accomplishments of the Volcker Fed are over. The Fed must demonstrate to the world anew that the dollar is a reliable long-term store of value.

See more in International Finance; Financial Crises

Council Special Report No. 45

Lessons of the Financial Crisis

Author: Benn Steil

In this report, Benn Steil shows that the financial crisis is the inevitable bust of a classic credit boom, and explains how monetary, taxation, and home ownership promotion policy combined with other features of the financial system to fuel an unsustainable buildup in debt. He recommends significant reforms to reverse the debt financing bias and make the system more resilient to falls in asset prices. This report is also available in Arabic.

See more in International Finance; Financial Crises

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

Roundtable Meeting

The Euro Area: Where Do We Stand?

This meeting is on the record.

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Media Conference Call

Benn Steil on Federal Reserve Exit Strategy

This meeting is on the record.

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Conference Panel Session

The Future of the Eurozone

This meeting is on the record.

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Corporate Meeting

Listen-Only Teleconference: Can the Eurozone be Rescued?

This meeting is on the record.

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Conference Panel Session

Currency Wars, Capital Controls, and the Outlook for the International Monetary System

This meeting is on the record.

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Conference Panel Session

Currency Wars, Capital Controls, and the Outlook for the International Monetary System

This meeting is on the record.

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Conference Panel Session

Fixing Finance: Reactions and Over-Reactions

This meeting is on the record.

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General Meeting ⁄ Washington

Money, Markets, and Sovereignty

This meeting is on the record.

Listen

General Meeting ⁄ New York

The G-20 London Summit

This meeting is on the record.

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Conference Panel Session

A Second Look at the Great Depression and New Deal, Session One: The 1920s - Bubble, Growth, or Gold?

This meeting is not for attribution.

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General Meeting ⁄ New York

Money, Markets, and Sovereignty

This meeting is on the record.

Listen

General Meeting ⁄ New York

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

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch

Conference Panel Session

Symposium on the U.S.-Japan Partnership, Session Two: The Global Economy - Instabilities and Reforms

This meeting is not for attribution.

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General Meeting ⁄ New York

The Financial Crisis: Where Do We Go From Here?

This meeting is on the record.

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Symposium ⁄ Mineapolis

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

This meeting is on the record.

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General Meeting ⁄ New York

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

This meeting is on the record.

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Roundtable Meeting

The Lessons of Argentina: Crisis and Aftermath

This meeting is not for attribution.

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General Meeting ⁄ New York

C. Peter McColough Roundtable Series on International Economics: Where Is Globalization Headed? History's Greatest Thinkers Weigh In

This meeting is not for attribution.

ListenWatch

General Meeting ⁄ New York

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

This meeting is on the record.

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General Meeting

Republican National Convention: Council on Foreign Relations Foreign Policy Discussion

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General Meeting

Democratic National Convention 2004: Council on Foreign Relations Foreign Policy Discussion

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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.

Watch

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.

Watch

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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