World leaders assemble in Washington to grapple with the global financial crisis. There are conflicting ideas about how to deal with the problem, what reforms are needed and what should fall under global regulations. A look at the approaches advocated by various countries: FRANCE The French President Nicolas Sarkozy, holder of the European Union's rotating presidency, and the British prime minister Gordon Brown are pushing for reforms to the world's financial architecture and leading on European measures to stabilise banks and restore confidence to markets. But France's foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said big decisions on regulating world markets will await the President-elect Barack Obama. The energetic and often impatient Mr Sarkozy said on Thursday that the US dollar should no longer be seen as "the only global currency" as it has since World War II. Mr Sarkozy engineered a joint European response to the crisis. At an Oct 12 summit of nations using the euro currency, European governments agreed to guarantee new bank debt and rescue large failing banks through emergency recapitalisation. On Nov 7, EU leaders called on the world's leading economies to decide on urgent global finance reforms within 100 days. EU leaders want the Washington summit to agree immediately on five principles: submit ratings agencies to more surveillance; align accounting standards; close loopholes; regulate banks to reduce excessive risk-taking; and ask the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to suggest ways of calming the turmoil.
BRITAIN Gordon Brown's agenda includes co-ordination on fiscal stimulus packages, a cleanup of the banking system, a beefed up surveillance role for the IMF, demands for banks to pass on interest rate cuts to customers, and a new push for a world trade deal. He has likely already won assurances from the Gulf region to help fund a vast increase of the IMF's US$250 billion bailout pot for struggling economies and will pressure China to follow suit. Mr Brown also seeks a new network of global regulators who would scrutinise the world's largest financial institutions.
GERMANY The German Chancellor Angela Merkel says there can be "no more blind spots" in international markets. Germany expects that the Washington meeting will set out general themes to be addressed and set up working groups, with results to be produced within a year. Ms Merkel argues that the International Monetary Fund should get greater powers to oversee financial companies that are active globally. She also backs revised rules for rating agencies and an effort to make it harder for companies to hide risks outside their balance sheets.
UNITED STATES George W Bush says the free market is the best answer to the world's economic crisis, preemptively warning foreign leaders not to crush global growth with the weight of intrusive oversight. "We must recognise that government intervention is not a cure-all," Mr Bush said Thursday, setting his own tone for the summit. "Our aim should not be more government. It should be smarter government." The president acknowledged that governments and independent regulators have failed consumers, contributing to an economic mess that spread like disease across economies and into homes. Mr Bush spelt out his prescription for the fix, from tougher accounting rules to more modern international financial institutions. But he stopped short of the tighter oversight that Europeans want or of forcing financial companies and their products to come under tough new regulations.
ITALY The Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi wants measures to ensure that banks continue making loans, especially to businesses and the banks that have received state aid. He also favours a mechanism to prevent an excessive drop in a company's stock price, leaving the company undervalued. Mr Berlusconi described the mechanism as "an authority that would call a halt to trading when the finance world divorces itself from the real world". Italy also is calling for more stringent controls on the financial sector, including the introduction of common norms.
JAPAN The prime minister Taro Aso is likely to summarise details of the government's latest fiscal stimulus package and reassure global leaders that Japan's financial system is healthy. Mr Aso's 27-trillion-yen (Dh1 trillion) economic stimulus package unveiled in late October includes expanded credits for small businesses and 2 trillion yen for cash disbursements to households. Despite initial hopes that Japan would be immune from the crisis, its effects are being felt particularly in industries, such as automotives, that rely heavily on exports. One source of stability, however, has been the Japanese banking sector, which is flush with cash. On Friday, Mr Aso announced Japan was prepared to lend up to $100 billion to the IMF to support countries reeling from the global financial crisis.
CHINA China says it will represent the interests of developing countries and press Western leaders for a bigger role in global financial bodies such as the IMF. China has been trying to lower Western expectations that it will join in global actions, stressing its domestic economic problems and limited resources as a developing country. The Premier Wen Jiabao and other officials say Beijing's $586 billion (Dh2.2 trillion) stimulus package for its economy, the world's fourth-largest, is the biggest contribution it can make to help assure global stability.
RUSSIA Russia has called for reforming the global financial regulatory system, saying the IMF has failed in its role as a crisis manager. The Kremlin wants both IMF reform and the creation of alternative lenders of last resort for countries in crisis, and says it is willing to contribute to the cost of the new agencies. The Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin called for a new agreement along the lines of the Maastricht Treaty, which created the euro, that would obligate every nation to meet a certain set of budget and economic criteria in order to prevent new crises. The Kremlin has dismissed as inadequate recent changes to give Russia and China, two of the world's largest emerging economies, a bigger say in IMF policies.
SPAIN The prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, after receiving an invitation to the summit with help from France, is expected to hold up the Spanish banking industry as a model for other countries whose banks have gone under in the crisis. No Spanish banks have collapsed or required rescue of late but they have been hit by the credit crunch. The Socialist government has made 150 billion euros available for buying high-quality assets from banks and underwriting bank loans to get credit flowing again to businesses and consumers.
SOUTH AFRICA The President Kgalema Motlanthe will represent South Africa. Christopher Hart, a Johannesburg-based chief economist at Investment Solutions, an international investment management company that specialises in South Africa, said he expects South Africa to stress that developing nations have suffered as a result of the financial crisis in the developed world. He says Africans are particularly concerned about protectionism.
BRAZIL The Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has insisted for weeks that big developing nations like Brazil must have a major role in drawing up new regulations for international finance, contending that rich nations set up the old system but failed to foresee or prevent the current crisis. Mr Silva held out little hope for solutions at this weekend's summit. Mr Silva also says the IMF and the World Bank must have their voting structure changed to give large developing nations more of a voice in decisions.
MEXICO The Mexican President Felipe Calderón is pushing for a globally co-ordinated response to the financial meltdown that would include stricter government regulation, more supervision of markets, greater transparency, and stimulus packages adopted by countries simultaneously. At the same time, Mr Calderón has made clear that market dynamics must be preserved. Mexico also wants the IMF to be strengthened and has lobbied for the expansion of the Financial Stability Forum, founded in 1999 by the Group of Seven leading industrialized countries to bolster the international financial system.
ARGENTINA The Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez is advocating "structural changes" in financial institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank. At a meeting of finance ministers and central bank presidents from the G-20 in Brazil last weekend, the president of the Argentine Central Bank, Martin Redrado, also asked the IMF for short-term "loans without any strings attached" to soften the effects of the global crisis. Argentina also supports Brazil's bid for more representation for emerging economies in international financial institutions.
TURKEY Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, opposes a new standby deal with the IMF despite calls from businessmen, academics and market players. Mr Erdogan says such a deal is not necessary and Turkey will not accept harsh conditions. Turkey has been holding talks with the IMF for a potential precautionary standby loan to partly address market worries. But the government is reluctant to sign a new deal and claims the economy was sound despite the global economic crisis.