In the decades following World War II, international trade was conducted according to the gold-exchange standard. Under such a system, nations fix the value of their currencies not with respect to gold, but to some foreign currency, which is in turn fixed to and redeemable in gold. Most nations fixed their currencies to the U.S. dollar and retained dollar reserves in the United States, which was known as the "key currency" country. At the Bretton Woods international conference in 1944, a system of fixed exchange rates was adopted, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was created with the task of maintaining stable exchange rates on a global level.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.