The United Kingdom, the United States, and their allies were convinced that international economic and financial cooperation through intergovernmental institutions was required to prevent a more serious recurrence of the economic and monetary chaos of the 1930s. Two plans were proposed almost simultaneously in 1943: a United States plan for an International Stabilization Fund, referred to as the White plan, after H. D. White, then assistant to the United States secretary of the treasury; and a British plan for an International Clearing Union, referred to as the Keynes plan, after the British economist John Maynard Keynes. Both plans called for international machinery to stabilize currencies and—a radical innovation—a prohibition against altering exchange rates beyond narrow limits without international approval. Both would have introduced a new international currency unit defined in terms of gold. The American plan called for participating nations to contribute to a relatively limited stabilization fund of about $5 billion, on which they would be permitted to draw in order to bridge balance-of-payments deficits. The British plan would have established a system of international clearing accounts, under which each member country could borrow up to its own quota limit, while its creditors would be credited with corresponding amounts, expressed in international currency units. Both plans were discussed with financial experts of other powers, including the Republic of China, the French Committee for Liberation, and the USSR. The International Monetary Fund as finally constituted resembled the United States-suggested stabilization fund. The proposal to establish a new international monetary unit was deferred for the time being.
A conference called by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and attended by delegates from all 44 United and Associated Nations was held from 1 to 22 July 1944 at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. The Bretton Woods Conference produced the constitutions, or Articles of Agreement, of two agencies conceived as sister institutions: the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).
The IMF came into existence on 27 December 1945, when 29 governments, responsible for 80% of the quotas to be contributed to the Fund, signed the IMF Articles of Agreement. An agreement with the UN, under which the IMF became a specialized agency, entered into force on 15 November 1947.