Sunday

25th Jun 2017

Brussels pushing finance deregulation in third world

  • The commission wants market access for European banks in the developing world (Photo: EUobserver)

While EU and other global leaders have talked tough about re-regulating the financial sector in the wake of the economic crisis, they remain committed to pushing through banking deregulation in the developing world via trade deals.

This strategy is undermining poverty reduction in these countries and is reproducing the same type of circumstances that led to the crisis in the first place, warns a new report published on Wednesday (11 March) by the World Development Movement, an UK-based anti-poverty NGO.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Both via the WTO negotiations on a General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and potential EU bilateral or regional trade deals with 34 countries in Latin America, Asia and the Mediterranean, the bloc continues to push for the lifting of restrictions on how Western banks operate in developing countries.

The EU In 2002, via "GATS" global trade talks, requested that 94 countries open up their financial industry, 20 of which were least developed countries and 30 were low income countries.

A financial services component of GATS would mean that countries would not be able to introduce new rules that are more restrictive than those already operating, making it difficult to pass laws on risky trading such as "short-selling" or to limit the numbers of service providers or the number of transactions.

All new financial services would also have to be permitted, giving the green light to the very same complex financial products that have been held responsible for the creation of the toxic asset problem in the north.

Also under GATS, full ownership by foreign banks would be allowed, which can make it hard for a host country's financial supervisor to monitor the foreign bank's activities and to ensure it is acting in the interests of the host country.

Even in the EU, the problem of foreign bank ownership is exacerbating the crisis in the east. The tap of credit to much of eastern Europe - where most of the banks are owned by Austrian, Swedish and other EU parent companies - today has been all but turned off, as the owners focus on provision of credit in their home markets.

After seven years of talks, however, countries are still haggling over a GATS deal, and the EU has sought bilateral and regional trade deals to get over the impasse.

The bilateral strategy, known as "Global Europe," seeks to remove regulations on European financial service companies, along with other liberalising measures in a range of sectors, in case a deal at the WTO level is not reached.

The EU trade deals already signed with Chile and Mexico contain substantial chapters on financial services, while the Caribbean Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU signed in October last year contains many of the financial liberalisation clauses proposed in GATS. Similar pressure on central American nations is being brought to bear to open up their financial sectors.

The report reveals that where banking liberalisation has occurred, looking in particular at India and, crucially, Mexico - home to one of the most liberalised financial sectors in the world, with 80 percent foreign ownership, poor people and small businesses see their access to credit, bank accounts and other financial services restricted.

At the same time, where such credit does exist, it is in the form of credit cards, car loans or mortgages, boosting spending on consumer items rather than productive sectors of the economy such as farming or manufacturing.

On Monday (9 March), UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown himself spoke out against the "do as we say, not as we do" attitude of Western countries regarding economic policies promoted to the developing world.

At an international development conference in London, he announced that he would push the World Bank and other wealthy nations to create a new fund for developing countries to help the poor through the crisis, although he did not attach any figures to the idea.

While there, he criticised the imposition of "economic orthodoxy" on the developing world.

"Too often in the past our responses to such crises have been inadequate or misdirected - promoting economic orthodoxies that we ourselves have not followed and that have condemned the world's poorest to a deepening cycle of poverty," he said.

The World Development Movement (WDM) however, says that there is an acute contradiction between such leaders' words and deeds in pushing for financial deregulation in the third world.

"On the one hand, Gordon Brown has developed a mantra of tough talk on the re-regulation of banks," said Benedict Southworth, the director of WDM. "On the other, together with other European leaders, he is aggressively pushing free trade deals which demand that developing countries follow a deregulated and liberalised banking model."

"That model has clearly and spectacularly failed here and has also failed poor people in the developing countries," she added.

The study highlights how the presence of European banks in developing countries has resulted in foreign banks cherry-picking the richer customers, resulting in an overall decline in services and credit for others, and notably to rural areas.

In urban areas where foreign banks are concentrated, low-income householders and small businesses struggle to meet the criteria to open an account, let alone to receive a loan.

In response, WDM is calling for financial services liberalisation to be reoved from from proposed bilateral and multilateral EU trade deals.

An official with the European Commission told EUobserver that they were studying the report very closely, but that the report's authors had "confused liberalisation with deregulation."

"Market access for European financial service providers in no way restrains the ability of countries to regulate financial services," the official said. "The question is whether such moves become protectionist."

EU extends sanctions on Russia

German chancellor Angela Merkel said that Russia hadn't done enough to implement the so-called Minsk peace process, a condition for lifting the sanctions.

EU steps up global counter-terrorism drive

EU foreign ministers vowed to increase the number of projects and financial support in different parts of the world ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, where leaders will focus on security and defence.

Interview

EU visa waiver unlikely to import Ukraine crime

Visa-free travel, which began last week, unlikely to prompt a Ukrainian crime wave, an EU police expert has said, but Ukraine itself is seeing increases in lawlessness.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  2. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  3. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  4. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  5. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  6. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  7. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  8. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Social Services ConferenceDriving Innovation in the Social Sector I 26-28 June
  2. Dialogue PlatformMuslims Have Unique Responsibility to Fight Terror: Opinon From Fethullah Gülen
  3. EUSEW17Check out This Useful Infographic on How to Stay Sustainable and Energy Efficient.
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Criticises the Juncker Plan's Implementation
  5. The Idealist QuarterlyDoes Europe Really Still Need Feminism? After-Work Chat on 22 June
  6. EUSEW17Create an Energy Day Event Before the End of June. Join the Call for Clean Energy
  7. UNICEF1 in 5 Children in Rich Countries Lives in Relative Income Poverty, 1 in 8 Faces Food Insecurity
  8. International Partnership for Human Rights26 NGOs Call on Interpol Not to Intervene Versus Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
  9. Malta EU 2017Significant Boost in Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs Under New Agreement
  10. World VisionYoung People Rise up as EU Signs Consensus for Development at EU Development Days
  11. ILGA-EuropeLGBTI Activists and Businesses Fighting Inequality Together
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Prime Ministers Respond to Trump on Paris Agreement