The Bellagio Group consists of academics and officials from G20 countries who meet annually for an exchange of views and discussion of major international economic and financial issues. The discussions are candid, and participants express their personal views.
Officials are generally at the level of deputy central bank governor and deputy treasury/finance secretary. (Senior officials from the IMF, BIS and OECD also participate.) The academics, who donate their time, have expertise in macroeconomics, international economics and finance, and are drawn from universities and think tanks around the world. The Group originally had a G-10 structure, reflecting the international monetary and financial architecture of the time. It has gradually expanded to give it a more G20-like structure, while preserving its intimate character. Click here for a list of current members and participants, and here for a list of past academic members.
The Bellagio Group was first convened in the 1960s by Professor Fritz Machlup to brainstorm on the structure of the Bretton Woods System and what might follow. The group of about 30 economists (which included Charles Kindleberger, Robert Mundell and Robert Triffin) met over several months to construct a proposal for exchange rates and adjustment mechanisms for the international monetary system. Most of these meetings occurred at the historic Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio, Italy (a Rockefeller Foundation Center)—after which the group was referred to as “The Bellagio Group of Officials and Academics”. The topics covered by the group expanded over time as they were “…increasingly operating at the request of G-10 leaders who had come to think of the Bellagio Group and its methods as invaluable to the discussion of adjustment and special reserve assets.” (Connell, 2013, pg. 259). After the major industrial countries transitioned to floating exchange rates, the group fell into abeyance for a number of years. A subset of members formed the G-30 in order to continue these discussions in a broader setting that included private sector financial institutions and a larger group of countries.
The Bellagio Group was reconstituted in the 1990s by Professor Peter Kenen as a forum for senior officials and leading academics to discuss the international monetary system and ways to improve its functioning. The discussion topics when it reconvened in 1995 included: Capital Flows, New Financial Instruments and Systems Risk; Alternative Approaches to Crises in Emerging Markets; Links between Monetary Policy and Exchange Rate Behavior. These topics have continued to feature prominently on Bellagio Group agendas. Barry Eichengreen (University of California-Berkeley) succeeded Kenen as convener from 2008-2020. Kristin Forbes (MIT’s Sloan School of Management) succeeded Eichengreen as convener in 2020. For additional information on the history of the group, see Carol Connell, Reforming the World Monetary System: Fritz Machlup and the Bellagio Group, 2013.)
Meetings of the Bellagio Group occur annually, generally on the premises of one of the participating central banks or multilateral institutions. Click here for pictures of selected past meetings: Banque de France (2011), Swiss National Bank (2012), Bank of Japan (2013), Banca d’Italia (2016), and National Bank of Belgium (2019). Support for the travel expenses of the academic members is provided by participating central banks.
The meeting is usually divided into about six topical sessions spread over a day and a half. Topics are chosen by the convener, in consultation with other members. The opening session is generally on the global macroeconomic outlook or aspects thereof. Subsequent sessions consider financial issues and other special topics. The group has historically focused on international economic issues, such as macroeconomic policy spillovers, trade and exchange rate tensions, and reform of international financial institutions. Each 90-minute session starts with a brief introduction by one or two academic members, followed by unstructured discussion. Proceedings are subject to Chatham House Rule.