Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Has German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck finally said what many world leaders think but are afraid to say? That the British government won’t sign up to meaningful reform of financial markets because it is too worried about what it would mean for the country’s most famous cash cow, the City of London.
The City, which accounts for around 35 percent of global foreign exchange turnover, has been a popular target for critics of capitalism for years. But it has rarely been singled out so bluntly as a problem by one of Britain’s close allies.
Even for a man not known for holding his tongue, Steinbrueck’s remark on Wednesday that Downing Street was impeding reform because it had “practically aligned” its interests with the City, was unusually undiplomatic. Just days before global leaders meet at a Group of Eight summit in Italy, Steinbrueck suggested the British government was plotting a “restoration” of the pre-crisis order to protect its own interests. The United States, by contrast, was now open to reform, he said.
Rather than attempting to smooth ruffled feathers when she addressed parliament on Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel picked up the thread, saying she would not tolerate efforts to stall reform at the G8 summit, though she did not name Britain.
It took only a few disarmingly pointed questions from four 7th grade Berlin students to get German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck to loosen up and deviate from the usual stock answers he – and fellow political leaders – serve up.
In perhaps his most candid public comments since taking office three years ago, Steinbrueck admitted long meetings cause his rear end to get sore and also compared deficit-spending just for consumption purposes to spending money on chocolate bars. He also said he doesn’t forget the names of journalists who write nasty comments about him. Here are a few of the more choice morsels from Steinbrueck’s interview in the Welt am Sonntag newspaper published on Sunday:
Sometimes those shifts are barely perceptible — the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War One but also bred German resentment and the rise of Nazism; the Yalta conference that helped create the United Nations as a guardian of peace but also led to the Iron Curtain that divided Europe for nearly half a century; and the Great Depression (arguably the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century, says Martin Wolf).
It is only when we look back we see the world has changed.
Are we at such a point now?
John Gray in The Observer speaks of a shattering moment in America’s fall from power. Germany’s Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck has said the United States has lost its financial superpower status. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said we need to rebuild the whole financial system from scratch, as they did at Bretton Woods. The Telegraph called for a ‘better capitalism’.
Today’s European edition of the International Herald Tribune is fronted by a photo montage of the presidents of Senegal, Afghanistan, Bolivia, Argentina, France and Brazil.
They have two things in common – all are attending this week’s United Nations General Assembly in New York and all see a global threat from the financial crisis that began on Wall Street and, in the words of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines, has moved “like a terrible tsunami around the globe”.