The French president Nicolas Sarkozy was to press his US counterpart George W Bush today on the need for an overhaul of the international financial system during a meeting in Camp David. Mr Sarkozy, joined by the European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, heads to the US presidential retreat outside Washington armed with a mandate from his EU colleagues to push for a top-to-bottom revamp of the world's financial system.
But the White House has preemptively declared that the talks will yield no new policy proposals, and no date or location for a world leaders summit that the French leader hopes will generate sweeping reforms. "I don't believe that tomorrow night's meeting will have any new policy announcements or any decision on a date or a location for that meeting -- although everybody is working towards that," said Mr Bush's spokesperson Dana Perino.
US officials say Washington and Brussels must secure advice and support from other major economies and that the incredibly complicated agenda for any summit must be worked out before the meeting is called. "There's a lot of things to work through and we'll find a date; that won't be -- that's the least of our worries, is finding a date," said Mr Perino, who poured cold water on Mr Sarkozy's call for a wholly new economic framework.
Asked whether Mr Bush would support that, Ms Perino replied: "I don't know. I think that what we'll do is accept for consideration all recommendations and all good ideas that come to us." But the French leader pressed his agenda as he visited Canada yesterday ahead of his meeting with Mr Bush. Addressing the National Assembly of the Canadian province of Quebec, Mr Sarkozy spoke of the emergence of "a new world" and new opportunities to make it a better place.
"Either we will be able to organize, regulate this new world and give it moral content," he warned, "or we will revert to a system, in which each country fends for itself -- a world of egoism, fanaticism and confrontation." On Thursday, Mr Sarkozy renewed his call for a wide-ranging summit before the end of the year while warning that reforms cannot wait for Mr Bush's successor to take office in January.
"Europe wants it, Europe asks for it, and Europe will get it," said Mr Sarkozy, who holds the rotating European Union presidency. According to the French president, the best time and place for holding the summit would be next month in New York. But yesterday, Mr Bush made clear that financial reforms in the US -- without which changes overseas would likely be doomed -- will not come before he hands over the keys to the White House in January.
"Our 21st century global economy continues to be regulated by laws written in the 20th century," the US president said in a speech 18 days before the US election. Citing the US treasury secretary Henry Paulson's overhaul proposal and "good suggestions" from others, Mr Bush declared: "Enacting these ideas into law must be a top priority for the next president and the next Congress." Mr Sarkozy on Thursday said he hoped to discuss the future role of the International Monetary Fund, sweeping currency reforms, and finance industry bonuses he blamed for fueling unnecessary risk-taking.
"We do not have the right to miss this opportunity for reconstructing our system of finance in the 21st century," Mr Sarkozy said on Thursday after the 27 EU leaders endorsed calls for a global financial system overhaul. "We have a mandate now to discuss this with the president of the United States." But Ms Perino kept her descriptions of the meeting low-key: "They will arrive. They'll have a meeting. Then they will go into a dinner and have just a short amount of time right after the dinner to be able to continue talking."
"And then they will head back to Europe." *AFP