Tension Precedes The G-20 Summit

The meeting of the G-20 scheduled for April 2 in London is getting contentious already. The Europeans want to talk about regulation and the Americans are more focused on stimulus.

The Telegraph.co.uk reported today that Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister and chairman of the 16 Eurogroup countries, says that Europe has done what it’s going to do for the time being.

“Recent American appeals insisting Europeans make an added budgetary effort were not to our liking, given that we are not prepared to go further in the recovery packages we have put forward,” he said.

“We take the view that we don’t need to make a further effort for the moment. We mustn’t pile deficit upon deficit.”

Disagreement also looms over how to save collapsing banks and how much regulation is needed of the financial markets and institutions responsible for triggering the economic crisis.

The New York Timeshas a similar report though they put more emphasis on the Europeans’ desire to move forward aggressively with new regulation. They are reportedly looking towards regulation that reaches across borders and brings a broader swath of the financial services industry under tight rules.

Naked Capitalism weighs in on the debate by citing a Financial Times article that while it restates many of the points in the two sources I’ve already cited has an interesting take on the amount of fiscal stimulus that France and Germany have provided. The Times contends, as do two of the readers of Naked Capitalism, that both countries have automatic stabilizers that are triggered by the sort of negative economic events that each country is experiencing.

The Times article includes some numbers from the IMF to support the argument and indeed if it is correct, then Germany and France are pretty much on a par with the U.S. in terms of resources committed to fighting the recession. The Naked Capitalism commenters add some more detail.

I hadn’t heard anything about these automatic stabilizers before, so I’m a little skeptical about their true worth, popping out of the blue as they seem to be. Nevertheless, maybe there is something to them. It would be interesting to see a bit more detailed analysis about them (let me know if anyone has some links).

I think the Europeans are going to come away from the meeting disappointed if they truly expect any major policy decisions on regulation. There are too many differences between the systems to expect much more than harmonization. Ours requires a lot of rethinking at this juncture. Fundamental questions about how big we want our banks and even about what activities they should be pursuing requires some fairly extensive debate. Done properly we might be able to come out of this with a better regime much as we did during the Depression when the securities laws were written.

Like all meeting of this sort, the April G-20 summit is likely to produce a lot of agreements to agree to study things some more and convene at a later date to see where everyone stands. That’s not necessarily a bad result.

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