German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the world's economic powers to send a "signal of strength" on tougher financial regulation, arguing Thursday that people are impatient to see change after paying billions to bail out banks.
Merkel has stepped up calls for tighter regulation of the financial sector as Germany and its European Union partners push through a huge euro zone rescue package — something that is unpopular at home. Politicians argue that markets' behavior worsened the continent's debt crisis.
The German leader recalled that at the height of the global financial crisis that struck in 2008 powers in the Group of 20 rich and developing nations agreed "every product, every actor and every financial center must be regulated — we promised people that."
"Now, after one and a half or two years, people are saying: what came of that?" she added. "At some point we have to provide the proof and say, 'come here, we've done it.' This point shouldn't be too far away."
"My appeal is: let us send a common signal of strength at the G-20 summit," being held in Canada next month, Merkel said at a conference on regulation.
In response to the global economic crisis, the G-20 — which combines traditional leading industrial nations with rising powers such as China and India — has been designated the key forum for economic coordination among countries.
In Europe, leaders have shown an increased resolve to regulate amid the debt crisis. On Tuesday, EU governments overrode British objections and U.S. worries to tighten rules for hedge funds, and Germany's securities regulator unilaterally announced curbs on traders of government debt and bank stocks.
Germany earlier this year announced plans for a levy on banks, which would pay into a fund to cover the costs of future financial crises. Merkel this week has advocated some form of financial market taxation, perhaps on transactions.
Merkel urged countries that have been unenthusiastic about tighter rules to recognize the need for them. She said the process needs to move forward, "otherwise — at least this is the case in Germany — people will despair of us."
Canada, Australia and Japan have argued that their banks didn't suffer massive failures and therefore shouldn't have to bear the burden of new taxes.
With European and even U.S. backing for the idea of a bank levy, "if there are again three countries that say, 'but we're not affected by that,' then that's extremely frustrating and ultimately can't move us forward,'" she said.
Tiff Macklem, a deputy Canadian finance minister, argued at the same Berlin forum where Merkel spoke that there was no "one-size-fits-all solution" to that particular issue.
Jose Vinals, director of the International Monetary Fund's monetary and capital markets department, underlined the need to get everyone on board in applying at least "critical minimum standards."
Some countries less-affected so far may not see the need to implement reforms, but "no one knows where the next crisis is going to come from," Vinals said.
"Having uneven regulations across borders may lead not only to unfair international competition but also to a migration of risks to those countries with the lowest regulatory requirements," he added. "This would put their financial systems at risk and ultimately endanger global financial stability."
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