France's Macron wants bank capital rules set by ministers

Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, attends a meeting about international affairs with former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (not seen) in Paris, France, March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

PARIS (Reuters) - French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that he wanted bank and insurance capital rules set by European Union finance ministers rather than by regulators.

The former French economy minister, who is frontrunner to win the election, told a conference of leaders of small businesses that regulators were too focused on reducing risk, discouraging banks and insurers from financing the wider economy.

“What I want is that bank and insurers’ main solvency and capital rules are discussed at the European level of Ecofin each year and that we set the main rules with targets for financing the economy,” Macron said.

The proposals mirror trends in the United States where the administration of President Donald Trump has intervened to place banking regulation under review.

French banks have been lobbying against the final piece of global capital requirements aimed at preventing a repetition of the 2007-2009 financial crisis, saying they would force them to significantly increase the amount of capital they need to hold.

Macron, a former investment banker at Rothschild & Cie, said that financial regulation created after the financial crisis “was not suitable for France”, where the economy is financed mostly by banking loans.

“We have been taken for a ride,” Macron said, adding that the French economy had nothing to do with the crisis.

Global banking regulators said last week they have narrowed their differences over a suite of new capital rules for lenders and remain determined to finalize the work.

However, Trump’s order to review major banking rules put in place after the crisis has raised doubts in Europe whether the United States will apply the final Basel package.

Reporting by Myriam Rivet; Writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Susan Thomas