The United States' slow progress on central bank digital currencies is seeing it fall behind the likes of China, India and the European Union on the future of money, warns think tank The Atlantic Council.
China has ramped up its digital yuan work over the last year, while the ECB is now in the preparation phase for a digital euro and India is seeing a million transactions per day processed by commercial banks throughout the country for the digital rupee.
Yet in the US, the Federal Reserve has been cautious about pushing ahead with pilots and several governors have expressed scepticism about the need for a CBDC. This month, Donald Trump vowed to prevent the creation of a digital dollar if he wins the US presidential election, calling a CBDC a "dangerous threat to freedom".
Josh Lipsky and Ananya Kumar from the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Centre warn that technological payments innovation at the Fed is lagging behind its peers and competitors. As an example, they note that the People' Bank of China has more than 300 people dedicated to CBDC work; the Fed has fewer than 20.
The Council argues that the Fed should grasp the opportunity to set standards and influence constructive developments on the future of CBDCs and payments more generally. In fact, central bankers around the world are asking for the Fed's help.
"In the absence of more US technological models and standards, a fractured system will be constructed with different designs, cybersecurity standards, and varied messaging systems. Instead of faster, cheaper, and safer, money will be more siloed but less secure," write Lipsky and Kumar.
American tardiness is not limited to CBDCs, note the authors, bemoaning a lack of progress on improving cross-border payments and the slow take up of FedNow.
"Between now and next January, Fed officials should do more to accelerate exploration efforts on all of their payment projects, including faster cross-border transfers and CBDCs.
"If they don’t, the future of money may quickly pass them by," conclude Lipsky and Kumar.
Learn more about payments at NextGen Nordics on the 23 April 2024.