Trump’s push to roll back financial regulation is a ‘big mistake’ that threatens a new financial crisis

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Jonathan Drake/Reuters

President Donald Trump has set off yet another international spat – this time in the normally moribund arena of financial regulation.

The problem, as with many of Trump’s policies, is that his aggressive “America First” approach tends to irk other countries, even longtime allies like Australia.

Yet Trump has managed to tick off the European Central Bank before he has a direct go at the US Federal Reserve, which has long been the target of Republican critiques.

Importantly, the ECB president, Mario Draghi, a former Goldman Sachs banker, took issue with the Trump administration’s declared intention of repealing post-financial-crisis regulations on large US banks, whose destabilization can and have caused global problems.

“The last thing we need at this point in time is the relaxation of regulation,” Draghi told the European Parliament’s committee on economic affairs in Brussels. “The idea of repeating the conditions that were in place before the crisis is something that is very worrisome.”

While Germany’s Bundesbank is often at odds with the ECB on monetary policy, the two put up a united front on the issue of financial regulation.

Andreas Dombret, a Bundesbank board member, said any attempt to roll back new rules would be a “big mistake” that threatens a new financial crisis.

Also taking a hit at Trump was the chairman of the European Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee, Roberto Gualtieri.

“Some first concrete confirmations of a new more unilateral policy stance by the new US administration, including on sensitive financial markets regulatory issues, raise concerns and require both thorough reflection and action from the EU side,” he told the committee.

The war of words was not confined to regulation, as Draghi also pushed back on the accusation by Trump adviser Peter Navarro that Germany was “exploiting” the US by keeping its currency artificially low.

We are not currency manipulators,” Draghi said. “Our monetary policies reflect the diverse state of the (economic) cycle of the eurozone and the United States.”

Roberto Gualtieri, the chairman of the European Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee, also took issue with the Trump team’s characterization.

“Some first concrete confirmations of a new more unilateral policy stance by the new US administration, including on sensitive financial markets regulatory issues, raise concerns and require both thorough reflection and action from the EU side,” he said.

The Trump-ECB melee is a head-fake for those looking for fireworks between Fed Chair Janet Yellen and Trump, who during the presidential campaign accused her of keeping rates low to support President Barack Obama – an outlandish claim.

Don’t worry: He’ll turn to the Fed in due time, including monetary policy. What to expect then is anyone’s guess. But it would be surprising if Trump actually wanted a reversal of the Fed’s pro-growth low-rates policy now that he is president – and has promised a growth rate of 4% for the US economy that economists of all political stripes see as highly improbable.

Trump is also likely to face resistance on regulatory changes from the Fed as well since most officials championed the extensive new regulations and are still implementing many of the rules involved.