Central bankdigital currency (CBDC) is probably not top of mind for most global consumers. But we may soon have no choice but to think about it — since 81 countries, representing over 90% of global GDP, are now exploring the development of one.
Why it matters: The U.S. lags much of the world. It could miss out on the opportunity to take a leadership role in an increasingly likely global transition to some form of digital currencies.
- "If the U.S. doesn't help standard-set and provide guidance on issues like privacy and cybersecurity, we could be headed into a fractured digital currency ecosystem that threatens the smooth operation of international finance," Josh Lipsky, director of the Atlantic Council's GeoEconomics Center, tells Axios.
Driving the news: The Atlantic Council, a think tank that will testify at a July 27 Congressional hearing on CBDCs, gave Axios a first look at its new interactive map showing just how many world governments are now considering it.
The backstory: CBDCs are digital versions of existing currencies — legal tender issued, governed and backed by a central bank.
State of play: China is furthest along among major global powers, having launched its pilot digital yuan in April.
- A total of 16 other countries are in the pilot phase or have launched, and another 15 countries have CBDCs in development.
- The U.S. is one of 33 countries still in the research phase.
What's next: Fed chair Jerome Powell has said that the U.S. central bank won't issue a CBDC without Congressional approval.
- In response, Congressional committees have stepped up their inquiries. Tuesday's hearing is before the House Financial Services Committee and will focus on national security implications.
The bottom line: The U.S. doesn't need to create a digital dollar immediately in order to have an impact on the development of digital currencies, Lipsky says.
- But it should engage with groups like the G7 and G20 nations to set standards for security and privacy, he adds.