European leaders want sweeping new market regulations
European leaders mounted a united front against the global financial crisis Sunday, proposing sweeping new market regulations, but it remained unclear whether economic giants including the United States and China would go along.
Heads of government and finance ministers from Europe's largest economies joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin to lay the groundwork for a common European position on economic reforms before an April 2 summit of the Group of 20 nations in London.
"Europe will own up to its responsibility in the world," Merkel told reporters following the talks.
Leaders from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic agreed to press for sanctions on tax havens, caps for managers' bonus payments and a stronger role and increased funding for the International Monetary Fund.
While the plans were based on an agenda adopted by the G20 in November, the measures announced Sunday were more far-reaching and concrete, particularly on long-disputed issues such as hedge fund regulation.
U.S. and China may not share Europe's zeal
However, analysts say other G20 members, including the U.S., China, Japan and developing nations such as India and Brazil, might not share Europe's zeal for blanket global regulations.
During Germany's turn at the presidency of the Group of Eight two years ago, Merkel pushed hard for greater transparency on global financial markets and, especially, hedge fund regulation. But her efforts ran into stiff resistance from Washington and London.
Even the global crisis and a change of administration may not be enough to persuade the U.S. to hand over its autonomy.
"I see the U.S. as wary of giving away powers of oversight and regulation," said Robert Brusca of New York-based Fact And Opinion Economics.
Financial industry leaders, on the other hand, may have lost too much credibility in the current crisis to fight off heavy restrictions on their practices.
"What the industry thinks is irrelevant," Brusca said. "It has squandered any goodwill it had by being given a leash of self-regulation — then running amok."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that "Europe wants the system to be refounded," and stressed the importance of the April meeting.
"We all want London to be a success and we are all aware that it's [our] last chance," Sarkozy said. "We cannot afford a failure in London."
Merkel's plan would give IMF more power
European leaders also backed Merkel's call for a "charter of sustainable economic activity" that would subject all financial market activities around the globe to regulation, including credit rating agencies.
Merkel's proposal envisions giving increased powers to the IMF, which the leaders agreed needed to receive double its current funding in order to help members respond "swiftly and flexibly" to a crisis.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for a "global New Deal" to be adopted to help right the world economy, saying international financial institutions need some $500 billion US to do the job.
That could prove complicated unless the U.S. agrees to cede the needed authority to the IMF to make it effective, analysts say.
"The IMF is a policeman without a whistle, let alone a gun," Brusca said. "I see more international co-operation as essential but still difficult."
Other key points agreed to Sunday included adopting a "sanctions mechanism" to penalize tax havens and urging banks to keep larger reserves of capital.
"A new system of regulation without sanctions would not have any meaning," said Sarkozy.
He said European countries should jointly draw up a list of tax havens, as well as sanctions EU members might face for continuing reckless financial activity.
Officials said a final copy of the summit agreement would not be circulated Sunday, in order to allow European Union members not present to view it first. All 27 EU members are to debate the document next week, and it is to be taken up by the European Council on March 19 and 20 and then presented to the G20.
That summit will be U.S. President Barack Obama's first and a test of just how much regulation the U.S. and other world leaders are willing to accept in an effort to prevent another meltdown.