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    `New Bretton Woods' Rendezvous Beckoned by Old One's Host Hotel

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    `New Bretton Woods' Rendezvous Beckoned by Old One's Host Hotel

    Post by sang_garuda on Fri Oct 31, 2008 6:23 pm

    The Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, has a message for world leaders: There's still room at the inn.

    With French President Nicolas Sarkozy and others calling for a ``new Bretton Woods'' -- a reference to the 1944 international conference at the hotel that created the modern global economic system -- the inn wants everyone to know it would be delighted to stage a repeat performance.

    ``We wrote a letter right away to President Sarkozy to please come back,'' says Pat Corso, chief executive officer of the hotel, who extended a similar invitation to U.S. President George W. Bush. Senator Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican, chimed in too.

    Corso says he's unfazed by Bush's decision to convene the Nov. 15 meeting of 20 industrialized and developing nations in Washington. After all, that meeting is likely to be just the first of a series of summits, so the hotel still has a chance to replicate its singular place in world economic history.

    Built by industrialist Joseph Stickney in 1902, the eight- level, red-roofed Spanish Renaissance-style hotel is surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest. Even after a $50 million renovation added a spa, a conference center and a rooftop garden, the hotel -- which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 -- retains an aura of Edwardian elegance. Afternoon tea is served off the main lobby, and men must wear jackets and ties for dinner in the restaurant.

    History Preserved

    It also has a 900-foot wraparound veranda, where the 1944 Bretton Woods delegates gathered for photographs. They're displayed in the hotel's Great Hall.

    The delegates, who included economist John Maynard Keynes, came from 44 nations. Mary Ann Gordon, a tour guide at the hotel, says one reason the inn was selected was because many other competing venues barred Jews at the time.

    U.S. officials also wanted a Northern state because they feared attendees from South America, Africa and Asia would be uncomfortable in Southern states with segregation laws, says James Boughton, a historian at the International Monetary Fund, which was born as a result of the conference.

    The hotel's isolation allowed delegates to work without distraction, says Mark Williams, 45, a Boston University economics professor. Today, that ``would be the equivalent of taking everyone to Iceland without cell phones.''

    Gold Standard

    The conference's handiwork was impressive: a plan for stabilizing post-World War II Europe, creation of the IMF and the World Bank to loan money to needy countries, and a fixed-rate currency-exchange system that lasted until President Richard Nixon abandoned it by taking the U.S. off the gold standard in 1971.

    Delegates were trying to prevent a third world war as the second one still raged, Boughton says: ``They had a view that peace depended on prosperity, and prosperity depended on countries trading.''

    The current crisis has world leaders seeking to invoke the same sense of farsightedness. ``We are going to have a new Bretton Woods,'' Sarkozy said Oct. 15 after meeting European Union counterparts. ``We have to reconstitute the system.''

    U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown advocated ``a new Bretton Woods -- a new financial architecture for the years ahead.'' Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi mentioned ``a new Bretton Woods,'' too.

    Guest-Room Plaques

    The hotel, 160 miles (257 kilometers) by car north of Boston, markets its history in brochures, newspaper ads and promotional DVDs. Plaques bearing attendees names are affixed to many guest-room doors.

    ``It is amazing to walk down the halls and see the gold plaques,'' says Kristin Forbes, 38, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts. ``It really does bring you back and give you a sense of history.''

    Forbes held her 2000 wedding at the 200-room hotel; the program for her nuptials summarized the resort's brush with history. ``Quite a few of our guests didn't know what the Bretton Woods agreement was,'' says Forbes, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005. ``They all had to know by the end of the weekend.''

    The hotel has a special resonance for Europeans, about 3,000 of whom are among the 80,000 who stay there every year, inn spokeswoman Irene Donnell says. Just before January's New Hampshire presidential primary, Donnell says, a group of Danish journalists covering that campaign asked to see the room where their country's delegate stayed. Denmark was still occupied by the Nazis in 1944.

    European Visitors

    ``We as Americans tend to see it as bystanders,'' CEO Corso, 58, says of the history associated with his hotel. ``Europeans come here and tell us that, but for that conference, things wouldn't have turned out for them as they did.''

    In April, tour guide Gordon showed a German diplomat the Gold Room, where British delegation leader Keynes and then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau signed the articles of agreement after three weeks of negotiations. The diplomat told her he had always wanted to see the room, with its rock maple table and 14 chairs.

    ``When I asked him why, he said, `Because this is the place where they saved Europe,''' she says.


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