The IASB and the FASB have already done a great deal of work on this issue. Is the council now taking ownership of it from these two bodies?
The Financial Markets Regulatory Dialogue [an informal body set up in 2002 which includes, among others, the European Commission, the US Treasury, the SEC and the Federal Reserve Board] is leading the process here. The council is not taking ownership. We want to let different parties work together and we will be providing political support for their efforts.
The council also wants to see greater convergence and mutual recognition of securities regulation. Which areas, in particular, do you intend to focus on?
There is huge interest in this subject on both sides of the Atlantic — and it is urgent. As Charlie McCreevy has indicated, we are still at an early stage, but we have to seize the opportunity, represented by the high level of political interest in achieving concrete results, to make progress.
On the European Union side, we need to engage with the member states, the European Parliament and market participants to define priorities. At this stage, our main objectives are as follows: access criteria [to financial markets] should be transparent and objective, so that there cannot be any cherry-picking of member states [that qualify for mutual recognition]; and EU markets should be governed by EU law and EU regulators — regulatory spill-overs must be avoided.
How confident are you that the council can achieve its objectives?
I must say I am positively surprised by how strong the American interest is. President Bush made an excellent choice in appointing Al Hubbard as the American co-chairman. He’s very much the same type of person as I am — he has a very hands-on approach and is very results-oriented. The personal chemistry between us is excellent. We do not need much time to find agreements so my overall feeling is more than positive.