February 21, 2018 / 4:21 PM / a year ago

EU official to U.S.: clearing plans won't undermine bilateral pacts

LONDON (Reuters) - European Union representatives have sought to reassure the United States that plans to tighten oversight of foreign clearing houses operating in the bloc will not disrupt transatlantic ties on market access that took years to agree.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. and European Union flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Mike Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

The EU has proposed giving its regulators stronger powers to supervise “systemic” or large foreign clearing houses handling transactions worth trillions of euros for investors in the bloc.

Washington fears the plans will see EU regulators working over the heads of American watchdogs to intervene in U.S. clearers like ICE (ICE.N) and CME (CME.O). The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) says the move threatens EU-U.S. clearing deals that took years negotiate.

“I am not sure that having too many regulators has the right outcome,” a senior U.S. clearing official told Reuters.

The draft law proposes “on site” inspections of big foreign clearing houses handling transactions inside the bloc, instead of EU regulators going via the CFTC as they do now.

Patrick Pearson, a senior official at the European Commission, said current EU rules on foreign clearers rely too much on supervision by regulators in a clearer’s market, but said Brussels did not want to revise or scrap bilateral deals.

“We have heard noise from the other side of the Atlantic,” Pearson told a debate about the draft law in the European Parliament’s economic affairs committee, adding that discussions about the EU plans would help “calm” the situation.

The parliamentary committee met CFTC on Tuesday.

Committee Chair Roberto Gualtieri said the EU would endeavor to show it did not “intend to regulate American farmers and agricultural derivatives” which were not covered by the draft law.

CFTC Chairman Christopher Giancarlo told the EU last year that changing bilateral deals would be a violation of trust.

Kay Swinburne, a British committee member, said CFTC had told the EU the bloc should trust home supervisors of foreign clearing houses and not legislate for “dual oversight”.

“I genuinely don’t think the location policy will ever be used, but we do need to think in terms of what it might be sending in terms of signals to the outside world,” Swinburne.

Britain has also been critical of the EU plan, saying it was a bid to drive the clearing of euro-denominated assets away from London’s financial center after Britain leaves the bloc in 2019.

The committee’s debate on Wednesday showed broad backing for the draft law, subject to stricter criteria for deciding when euro clearing should move and clarity on the role of the European Central Bank in the decision.

EU lawmakers and member states have the final say on the draft law which Gualtieri wants approved by year end.

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Edmund Blair

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