World leaders holding an emergency meeting to combat the economic crisis agreed yesterday to a far-reaching action plan that, over the next 4 1/2 months, would begin to reshape international financial institutions and reform worldwide regulatory and accounting rules.
The leaders’ 11-page statement spoke of broad principles, leaving the details to be worked out by lower-level aides before another summit meeting in April, after Barack Obama assumes the presidency. But the gathering in Washington of the nearly two dozen nations — from every region of the world — reflected the new balance of power emerging in the aftermath of a financial crisis that has devastated even well-run economies, a wrenching process that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has dubbed “the birth pangs of this new global order.”
Under the plans outlined by the leaders, countries such as China, Brazil and India would gain greater roles and responsibilities as part of a restructuring of the international financial system, while European leaders won a commitment to new regulations and controls on banks, rating agencies and exotic financial securities. The leaders also agreed that a dramatic failure of market oversight in “some advanced countries” was among the root causes of the financial crisis, an implicit rebuke of the United States.
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“I’m a free market person,” President Bush told reporters after the summit ended, “until you’re told that if you don’t take decisive measures then it’s conceivable that our country could go into a depression greater than the Great Depression.”
The Europeans got “virtually everything” they sought at the summit, French President Nicholas Sarkozy crowed afterward at a news conference. He said it had been difficult to persuade Bush to hold the summit, but the results were worth it. “America is still the No. 1 power in the world,” he noted. “Is it the only one? No, it isn’t.”
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The leaders, representing the Group of 20 economic powers, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Nations and other international organizations, met over dinner at the White House on Friday. They then continued their discussions yesterday arrayed in a square in the central hall of the 19th-century National Building Museum, beneath soaring 159-foot high ceilings.
“We are determined to enhance our cooperation and work together to restore global growth and achieve needed reforms in the world’s financial systems,” the leaders declared in their communique.