Global regulatory discussions on bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, and ICOs may begin to take shape as early as April, 2018. On Sunday, France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told French news channel LCI that he aims to propose a “discussion all together on the question of bitcoin” during the upcoming G20 summit. Given Le Maire’s tone during the interview, however, the starting point for this discussion is likely to be deeply skeptical of cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies.
“I don’t like it,” Le Maire told LCI. “[Bitcoin] can hide activities such as drug trafficking and terrorism. There is an obvious speculative risk. We need to consider and examine this and see how … with all the other G20 members we can regulate bitcoin.”
While many of the individual countries within the G20 are developing their own cryptocurrency regulations, the G20 itself has been reluctant to address the topic directly. That may change in 2018, even without Le Maire’s influence, as central banks and regulators are increasingly forced to react to the all-too-real financial innovation that many of them had previously dismissed as something between a fad and a scam. Thanks to the recent international boom in both the value and popularity of cryptocurrencies, and the growth of blockchain-related technologies, it’s no longer a topic that the G20 can afford to ignore.
Given the many varying approaches taken towards regulating cryptos among the G20 — from the relatively hands-off approach taken by the U.S. and Japan to effective criminalization in countries like China and current G20 Chair Argentina — it may be some time before anything approaching a consensus is reached.
The G20 hasn’t been entirely caught off guard when it comes to all things blockchain, however. The Financial Stability Board (FSB), a G20-affiliated advisory group specializing in the global finance system, has been actively studying cryptocurrencies since at least early 2016.
It’s also worth noting that Le Maire’s view of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology isn’t entirely hostile. Last week, Le Maire announced that his agency had approved new rules to allow the trading unlisted securities through blockchain-based trading platforms. “The use of this new technology will allow fintech firms and other financial actors to develop new ways of trading securities that are faster, cheaper, more transparent and safer,” Le Maire said in a statement.
At the same time, France’s financial regulatory agency, the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), is actively working on a new framework for ICOs, dubbed UNICORN (Universal Node to ICO Research & Network). Given France’s status in the E.U., the UNICORN model may well serve as the basis for future European ICO regulations, and an essential reference point for G20 discussions.