World leaders agree on new regulations to better markets

Amid the gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression, international leaders agreed Saturday to develop new regulations to strengthen global markets.

The leaders directed their finance ministers to draft specifics by March 31. Those recommendations will be discussed at a second summit by April 30 to include the next U.S. president, Barack Obama.

Among the proposals that need to be fleshed out: a way to give more countries a say in the operations of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Both institutions were created after the last financial summit of this type, the 1944 conference at Bretton Woods, N.H.

Bretton Woods is a landmark because it led to the creation of today's financial system — one imperiled by frozen credit markets, falling stock markets and teetering industries.

In a joint declaration after Saturday's sessions, the participants agreed in principle to an early warning system advocated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others that would detect red flags such as the mortgage problems that contributed to the U.S. financial woes.

The declaration calls for "supervisory colleges" of financial regulators around the globe to better detect risky investing. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had proposed such as a body to oversee the world's 30 largest banks.

The leaders also directed their finance ministers to develop global accounting standards, especially for complex securities, and ways to review executive compensation.

President Bush praised the talks as a successful beginning, in part because world leaders reaffirmed their support for "pro-growth" capitalist policies and free trade.

"A (single) meeting is not going to solve the world's problems," said Bush, official host for the summit of 19 countries and the European Union.

Brown said the world leaders "agreed we must do more."

While Brown and others were pushing for economic stimulus plans, the summit participants stopped short on a commitment to all act at the same time. The Bush administration has not agreed to a stimulus package supported by Obama and Democratic congressional leaders.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said summit participants "made an appeal for a concerted relaunch" of the world economy. "It's a message we're sending to the markets," he said.

Bush said there will also be a plan to restrict the complex financial transactions known as "credit default swaps." Once unregulated, these swaps will now have to go though centralized clearing houses, Bush said.

The key to reform is more "transparency" so stakeholders know the true value of assets and holdings. Bush said transparency will help investors "understand the true value of the assets they purchase."

The financial summit was among the most important meetings of its kind since World War II. The gathering was unique because it also included emerging nations such as Brazil, China and India, along with the U.S. and more developed European countries. The United Nations, World Bank and International Monetary Fund also took part.

Obama, who has insisted there is only one U.S. president at a time, did not attend the summit. He sent former secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Iowa congressman Jim Leach, a Republican, to the meetings. Albright and Leach met separately with representatives of some of the participating countries.

There were some light moments Saturday. Bush and Sarkozy, for example, playfully exchanged a fist bump. The summit also has two official group photos. Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez missed the first shoot and the group had to assemble again.

Contributing: David Lynch; Associated Press

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