Germany plans to host G-20 finance ministers meet

Welcoming Obama's financial sector reform proposals, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Sunday said he plans to convene a meeting of the G-20 finance ministers in Berlin ahead of the G-20 summit in Canada in June. The meeting will discuss, among other things, how to involve the finance sector in adequately sharing the costs of the present and future crisis, Schaeuble said in a newspaper interview.

Earlier, the German government said in its initial reaction that the US President Barack Obama's proposals to bar US banks from risky investments and to prevent them from becoming "too big to fail" were quite encouraging for the current efforts to reform global financial markets. The President's proposals are a "helpful encouragement for further discussions on  international level," a finance ministry spokesman said in Berlin.

The German government continues to strive for globally- agreed solutions rather than individual nations taking their own steps. Therefore, the German government is planning to draw up its own proposals on reforming the financial markets and to present them to the G-20 nations at the summit in June, the spokesman said.

Major industrialised nations have backed Obama's plans for far-reaching reforms of the US banking system. French Finance Minister Madame Christine Lagarde praised Obama's plan as "a very good step forward". Asked if France would follow the US lead, she said in a radio interview that "it is indeed just the other way round. I am pleased that the US President is following us."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is reported to be "comfortable" with President Obama's reform proposals for the US banks. "It is directionally something the prime minister is comfortable with," his spokesman said in London. The European Union's Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Joaquin Almunia welcomed Obama's reform plans as "more than appropriate", but said there was no need for the EU to follow the US lead.

Under Obama's proposals, which were outlined last week, US retail banks would be banned from using their own money in risky financial transactions. This would prevent them from investing in hedge funds and private equity funds and from engaging in "propriety trading" - investing to make profits for themselves rather than on behalf of their customers.

This was the second major initiative taken by Obama in a week to reform the US banking system. On January 14, he announced a USD 117 billion tax on the biggest US banks to recoup the money taxpayers spent in bailing out banks at the height of the financial crisis last year.

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