US agrees to new banking rules

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The US is committed to implementing new international agreements for banks, according to the president of the Dutch central bank, Nout Wellink. The bank’s chief made his comments on Saturday in Washington at the end of spring talks of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund IMF.

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced at the meeting of international bankers that the US had agreed to conform to the rules laid down in the so-called Basel III framework which was endorsed in November 2010. The Basel Committee was set up to foster international cooperation on banking supervision, but there were still many gaps in the implementation part of the accord. “If the Americans don’t cooperate, many other people will ask the question why they should have to,” said Mr Wellink, also chairman of the Basel Committee.  

The biggest stumbling block in adopting the Basel III agreement relates to greater demands on capital ratios. The banks claim that these conditions will adversely affect profit margins. Banks will have to hold much more capital to prevent a repeat of the financial crisis. Besides increasing their core capital ratios, they will be forced to carry a further capital conservation buffer. Any bank that doesn’t meet these requirements could possibly be banned from paying out dividends to shareholders until the balancing sheets have improved.  

“We have agreed to keep our heads and view it all in perspective,” continued Mr Wellink, “The introductory period of the new rules has been phased, which gives space for new resistance. But we will not allow this to deter us.” US commitment is crucial this time round, given that the Americans did not fully implement Basel II. “But Geithner has made it very clear that the situation is entirely different now. US Congress wants to go even further than Basel III on a number of points,” said Mr Wellink.  

The spring talks were attended by IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, US Central Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, his German counterpart Axel Weber and Italian Financial Stability Board Chairman Mario Draghi.  

On the sidelines of the Bank-IMF meetings, the Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies moved to take on "imbalances" like European debt, Washington's multiple deficits, and, on the other side, China's huge trade surplus. The G20 countries, whose finance chiefs held talks ahead of the bank meetings, have pledged to make progress in their banking practices.  

The president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellink, also warned that the global economy was “one shock away from a full-blown crisis” and said that a worsening of conditions in the Middle East and Africa “could derail global growth.”


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