SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. This week, European leaders called for an emergency international summit to discuss reinventing the global financial system. The proposal drew a tepid response from the United States. So today French President Nicolas Sarkozy is traveling to Camp David to bring his case personally to President Bush. Willem Buiter is a professor of European political economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science and former chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He joins us from London. Thank you very much for being with us.
Professor WILLEM BUITER (European Political Economy, London School of Economics and Political Science): Pleasure.
SIMON: And the Spanish prime minister told reporters, quote, "This is a crisis that comes from the United States, from the financial system of the United States." Is that true?
Professor BUITER: No. It's a half truth. Clearly things got badly out of hand inside the United States' financial sector - regulations, supervision, subprime mortgages - but this is a global issue, the failure of regulators to get to grasp with their banks' excesses in the housing sector, and in fact very much part and parcel of the Spanish picture of the last few years. They've had the biggest building boom since the pyramids. So to say that this is a U.S. problem inflicted on the poor, innocent Europeans is nonsense really.
SIMON: And what kind of overhaul do you think is required? The substantial overhaul European leaders recommend?
Professor BUITER: I think we're going to have to regulate finance over the domain that the finance moves. So for border-crossing finance, you have to have border-crossing regulations. Basically that means global regulations for 30 to 50 global financial intermediaries, banks and other things. We already have, I think, pretty good co-operations in central banks from the coordinated rate cuts to the swap lines. So there's not much co-ordination to be done there.
And the IMF, I think, has to be rethought, provided there are the resources to help emerging markets that are likely to get into trouble next in this crisis. Now they've been doing without the fund for about a decade now, but they will rediscover the joys of 19th Street in Washington and having to visit the fund for bailouts in the not too distant future. So that has to be done. But I don't think that much of significance, other than possibly on the need for global regulation of border-crossing finance institutions, will be agreed.
SIMON: Willem Buiter, professor of European political economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Thanks so much for being with us, sir.
Professor BUITER: Pleasure.
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