EVERY six months the presidency of the European Union changes so that each member state has its turn at influencing the European economic and political agenda.
At such intervals the Lord Mayor and the Chairman of Policy carry out a “pre-Presidency” visit to discuss with senior politicians and civil servants both their priorities in what they are looking to achieve and to try and influence their thinking on issues of importance to the City.
The Poles are strong supporters of deepening and widening the single market and while their vision of Europe is, understandably, more integrationist than ours, they tend to favour the UK’s growth-centred approach to the financial services.
They will want to use their term to demonstrate that Poland is a significant player in EU politics, while the Polish president will undoubtedly also want to use it as a platform for the parliamentary elections in October 2011.
There are a number of important issues on the table in the coming months, particularly with regards to financial instruments, over-the-counter derivatives, European contract law and trade finance. Perhaps most importantly, there is also the subject of financing growth in small and medium sized companies that are generally perceived as the major area for generating jobs and growth in future years.
The traditional suppliers of credit, the banks, are now very constrained by the need to rebuild balance sheets, build more reserves and reduce risk.
We need therefore to look at alternative funding channels and tap the resources of those countries that have come through this crisis with little damage to their financial strength. In other words, the global community.
The City is Europe’s global financial centre and although we support a strong regulatory framework it has to operate globally. Over-regulation inspired by over-zealous regulators or political motives should be resisted.
Part of our job is to drive this message home so that each Presidency understands that issues on matters such as regulation should be viewed in a wider context than purely domestic.
I am travelling to China next week where I sit on the board of the City of London Advisory Council for China as well as the Shanghai International Financial Advisory Council.
My message there will be the same as in Poland – we are working in a globalised world and though we compete we must continue to work towards a degree of global consensus in areas such as regulation and standards of business conduct if we are to avoid even bigger crises in the future.
Stuart Fraser is the Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation.