Space to Watch for WTO Litigation
Graham Bowley had an interesting piece in the New York Times over the weekend about substantive and attitudinal differences in new bank regulation in the US and Europe. Here's what he wrote:
Kay Swinburne, a member of the European Parliament, said this step is “more dramatic” than the American supervisory reform, which foresees a council of regulators to watch for systemic risks, though oversight will continue to be divided between regulators.
Still, while in some specific areas Europe may be going beyond the United States, in broader areas European leaders are favoring much more limited action. There is likely to be no widespread European version of the Volcker rule, for example, according to Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, an economist and the director of Cepii, a research group in Paris — mainly because of the conviction that the cause of the financial crisis was risky trading by American institutions. In European eyes, European banks did not discredit themselves and so should not be meddled with.
For that same reason, while the United States favors requiring banks to set aside significantly more capital as a cushion against future losses, some European countries are fighting this. The move would be expensive, and German leaders, in particular, feel this would unfairly punish their banks for a problem caused by American banks — despite much evidence, according to analysts, that the European institutions, too, were involved in the free-wheeling culture that got the world economy into so much trouble.
While the WTO allows countries to have different regulations, it does require countries to limit the types of regulation they have in similar ways. And global banks despise different regulation, so they're likely to mine the policies that are different from one another for possible WTO violations. In fact, we've already seen rumblings of governments preemptively using the corporate talking points.