Treasury Has Sustained Its Formal Process to Promote U.S. Policies at the International Monetary Fund

GAO-06-876R: Jun 29, 2006

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In recent years, Congress has demonstrated significant interest in legislating U.S. policies regarding the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Currently, the administration is charged with responding to dozens of legislative mandates related to the IMF, including advocacy for certain IMF policies, instructions for U.S. voting positions on IMF assistance to borrower countries, and requirements to report to Congress on various aspects of U.S. participation in the IMF. Since 2001, we reported that the United States had maintained nearly 70 legislative mandates prescribing U.S. policy goals at the IMF. These mandates covered a wide range of policies, including policies regarding combating terrorism, human rights, international trade, and weapons proliferation. As an international organization, the IMF is generally exempt from U.S. law. However, Congress can seek to influence IMF policy by directing the Secretary of the Treasury to instruct the U.S. Executive Director on the IMF's Executive Board to pursue certain policy considerations or to vote in a particular way on IMF programs or on assistance to specific countries. In 2000, Congress directed us to assess the Department of the Treasury's (Treasury) efforts to advance U.S. legislative mandates at the IMF. The Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2000 requires us to report annually on the extent to which IMF practices are consistent with U.S. policies as set forth in federal law. In January 2001, we reported that Treasury instituted a formal process in 1999 to systematically promote congressionally mandated policies at the IMF. We also found that, although Treasury had had some influence over IMF policies, it was difficult to attribute the adoption of a policy within the IMF solely to the efforts of any one member because the IMF generally makes decisions on the basis of consensus. Since 2003, we have provided yearly updates on (1) the status of Treasury's process for advancing congressional mandates at the IMF and (2) the number of U.S. legislative mandates concerning the IMF. This report provides a similar update for 2006.

The Department of the Treasury has sustained a formal process for advancing U.S. policies at the IMF. A task force facilitates coordination between Treasury and the U.S. Executive Director and identifies early opportunities to influence decisions of IMF members. Since our September 2005 report, the task force has continued to meet on a regular basis to identify opportunities to advance legislative mandates at the IMF. Treasury continues to promote the task force as a tool for monitoring and promoting legislative mandates and other policy priorities by, for example, including discussion on crosscutting policy issues such as debt relief and focusing attention n on both present and prospective IMF programs. We have identified 70 legislative mandates that prescribe U.S. policy goals at the IMF, which is similar to the numbers we reported in our previous reports. Since our last report, 9 mandates have either replaced older mandates or represented amendments to mandates, and 1 mandate, concerning direct support to the central government of Cambodia, has expired. Treasury continues to notify the U.S. Executive Director about new mandates through instruction letters.