One basic feature of the world payments system is its asymmetry. It would be satisfying and convenient if we could regard this system as composed of many more or less homogeneous national units, each with its currency of which the external value was reflected through a network of equally significant exchange rates. But the facts dictate differently. The national units are of very different sizes and monetary significance, and only a small number of exchange rates are of strategic importance. Even within the group of fifteen to twenty important countries and currencies a few stand out and claim attention. The key currencies, their problems and characteristics are formative while the leading key currency, the U.S. dollar, has unique problems special to itself as the reserve and intervention currency.
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