TIANJIN, China (AFP) — Global business leaders gathered in China for a weekend World Economic Forum meeting spent most of their time debating the Wall Street bailout plan, and anxiously awaiting news of a deal.
The financial turmoil in the United States dominated discussions at the two-day Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, one of China's fastest-growing cities, which was to wrap up on Sunday.
"We need to move fast... so we can get ourselves out of this," Citigroup senior vice chairman William Rhodes said at the meeting, which has brought together some 1,400 people from dozens of countries.
"We must restore confidence. The package needs to be approved to put a floor under the housing market."
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, addressing the Tianjin meeting on Saturday, said: "Confidence is more precious than gold and currency at the moment."
US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and top US lawmakers said early Sunday they had made "great progress" toward reaching a deal on the bailout plan, adding they hoped to finalise it before the end of the weekend.
Paulson's original 700-billion-dollar proposal called for the government to use tax dollars to buy up bad loans, including mortgages, and hang onto them to provide greater liquidity for ailing US financial institutions.
"The American consumer is toast, done, finished," said Stephen Roach, the chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, adding that the crisis would have wide-reaching consequences for countries trying to export goods to the US.
Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, hit out at the "dangerous and indefensible" extent to which financial institutions were allowed to amass debt, lamenting the lack of "prudential supervision".
"The real economy worldwide will be massively impacted," Liu said.
Referring to the bailout plan, he said: "Fast food is always convenient, but does not always agrees with your stomach."
Roach said the crisis had taught the world, especially the United States, a "painful lesson on supervision", urging government to rethink the role of central banks in the regulatory process.
For Rhodes, "one of the things that must come out of this crisis, that did not come out of previous crises, is some form of international accounting standards."
"We really need a set of internationally accepted regulatory norms. We are too tied together in a globalised world," the Citigroup executive said.
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