26 September 2008

U.S. will lose financial superpower status: Germany

Thu Sep 25, 2008 6:08am EDT

By Noah Barkin

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany blamed the United States on Thursday for spawning the global financial crisis with a blind drive for higher profits and said it would now have to accept greater market regulation and a loss of its financial superpower status.

In some of the toughest language since the crisis worsened earlier this month, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck told parliament the financial turmoil would leave "deep marks" but was primarily an American problem.

"The world will never be as it was before the crisis," Steinbrueck, a deputy leader of the center-left Social Democrats, told the Bundestag lower house.

"The United States will lose its superpower status in the world financial system. The world financial system will become more multi-polar."

Steinbrueck, whose efforts to secure greater transparency on hedge funds during Germany's G8 presidency last year collapsed amid objections from Washington and London, attacked what he called an Anglo-Saxon drive for double-digit profits and massive bonuses for bankers and company executives.

"Investment bankers and politicians in New York, Washington and London were not willing to give these up," he said.

He proposed eight measures to address the crisis, including an international ban on "purely speculative" short-selling and an increase in capital requirements for banks in order to offset credit risks.

The collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers and financial woes of other financial institutions like insurer AIG have prompted the U.S. government to propose a $700 billion rescue package for the country's financial sector.


Steinbrueck welcomed U.S. efforts to stem the crisis but said it was neither necessary nor wise for Germany to replicate the U.S. plan for its own institutions, which are under pressure but do not face the same risks as their U.S. counterparts.

The German Bundesbank said earlier this week that the financial market turbulence would hit the earnings of Germany's big commercial lenders, its publicly-owned Landesbanks and its cooperative banks.

Tighter credit in the wake of the crisis could also constrain household consumption and corporate investment, increasing the likelihood the German economy will fall into recession this year.

But Steinbrueck said German regulator Bafin believed German banks could cope with losses and ensure the safety of private savings, calling the turmoil primarily an American problem.

"The financial crisis is above all an American problem. The other G7 financial ministers in continental Europe share this opinion," he said.

"This system, which is to a large degree insufficiently regulated, is now collapsing -- with far-reaching consequences for the U.S. financial market and considerable contagion effects for the rest of the world," Steinbrueck added.

He advocated stronger, internationally coordinated regulation, saying the crisis showed that national action was not enough.

"The International Monetary Fund should become the controlling authority for the application of worldwide financial market standards," he said.

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