The mood on cryptocurrencies at the G20 meeting in Argentina in recent days was decidedly hopeful. Among the world leaders, Bruno Le Maire, France's finance minister, helped to set the tone, saying ahead of the summit in an interview with Numerama that he wants the country to be out front on cryptocurrencies.
France already has a leadership position in the world on fintech, more specifically crowdfunding and the blockchain, said Le Maire, asking "so why stop there?"
He doesn't intend for France to miss what he's dubbed "the blockchain revolution" -
The French finance minister's message is a 180 reversal from his previous take on the cryptocurrency market, in which he and his peers had penned a letter to the Argentinian finance minister outlining their concerns about the market. Chief among their concerns was the potential of cryptocurrencies posing a risk both to the global economy and novice investors.
Those fears must have been alleviated by the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney's revelatory comments that cryptocurrencies don't pose a systemic risk to the global economy.
Le Maire pointed to a blockchain revolution in which "bitcoin was only a precursor," suggesting more innovation will be developed in the country.
Le Maire also seemed to give the thumbs up to initial coin offerings (ICOs), suggesting that startups would use this fundraising method by issuing tokens in cryptocurrencies "or not." He has tasked former Bank of France Deputy Governor Jean-Pierre Landau with developing "an effective legal framework."
Le Maire was quick to point out that the blockchain revolution has the potential to disrupt the banking (including investment funds) and insurance industries as we know them. He warned: "Anticipate them. Let's not be mere spectators: become actors in this revolution."
While striking a completely different tone with his remarks compared to the letter, Le Maire fell short of putting forth a reckless abandon, adding a cautious tone and spelling out some of the risks that come along with this budding market, not the least of which is volatility in the bitcoin price. He pointed to recent performance in BTC, whose value has been slashed in half since December 2017.
In keeping with the country's focus on fintech innovation, Le Maire suggested a Visa program for ICO companies that meet certain criteria.
"France has every interest in becoming the first major financial center to propose an ad hoc legislative framework that will allow companies initiating an ICO to demonstrate their seriousness to potential investors."
He ended his comments with a call to his G20 colleagues to share in the responsibility of security to foster innovation, as development cannot occur in a "regulatory vacuum." As for France, they "will not miss the blockchain revolution." Vive la France!
Featured image from Flickr/EU2017EE Estonian Presidency.