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US Finance

US ‘will lose financial superpower status’

By Bertrand Benoit in Berlin

Published: September 25 2008 11:55 | Last updated: September 25 2008 20:28

The US will lose its role as a global financial “superpower” in the wake of the financial crisis, Peer Steinbrück, German finance minister, forecast on Thursday in the most outspoken comments by a senior European government figure since Wall Street plunged into chaos two weeks ago.

Mr Steinbrück, a Social Democrat and long-time champion of tougher financial market rules, said the US government was to blame for the severity of the crisis because it had resisted European calls for stricter regulation until it was too late.

“The US will lose its status as the superpower of the world financial system” with the emergence of stronger, better-capitalised centres in Asia and Europe, he told the German parliament. “The world will never be the same again.”

His comments echo deep anger in Germany at the perceived recklessness of Anglo-Saxon financial engineering and a feeling that the US model of economic liberalism has failed while the more regulated, long-term oriented and industry-based German economy has proved more resilient.

“Ten years from now,” he later told journalists, “we will see 2008 as a fundamental rupture. I am not saying the dollar will lose its reserve currency status, but it will become relative.”

The minister said it had been “irresponsible” of the US government to oppose stricter regulation even after the subprime crisis had broken out. This laisser faire ideology, he said, “was as simplistic as it was dangerous ... This largely under-regulated system is collapsing today.