Canada warns against excessive bank regulation

Thu Jan 28, 2010 12:40pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, distancing himself from hard-liners in the bank reform debate, warned on Thursday against excessive regulation of the financial sector.

"Canada ... believes that financial sector regulation must have the right purposes and must not be excessive ... Canada will not go down the path of excessive, arbitrary or punitive regulation of its financial sector," Harper said.

Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he noted that higher regulatory standards in Canada meant its banks did not require bailouts. He said that if inadequate regulation in other countries was not addressed, "the consequences could actually be worse than before the crisis."

The prime minister repeated Canada's stance that rather than impose a set of global regulations, each country should fix its own system and then submit to international scrutiny.

Harper said there was no public demand in Canada for "retaliatory measures" against domestic banks since they did not fail or require public assistance.

"Our approach to financial sector regulation, while historically much more activist than in many other countries, has not been to micromanage the affairs of a complex industry," he said.

He did not directly refer to U.S. plans to limit the size of banks or British and U.S. ideas of putting some kind of levy on banks to recoup public subsidies, but leaders are engaging in a lively discussion about just how to approach reform.

Harper's speech was intended to lay out an agenda for the G20 and G8 summits Canada is hosting in June.

He said the top priorities of the Group of 20 developed and emerging countries are:   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivers a speech during a Conservative caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa January 22, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie CANADA</p>