Daily News Brief

March 26, 2009

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

- Geithner to unveil new regulation plan before Congress.
- China reacts sharply to new U.S. military report.
- Iran accepts U.S. invitation to attend Afghanistan summit.
- Sarkozy meets Congolese president; pushes peace, business interests.

Top of the Agenda: New Regulation Plan

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is expected to detail a new plan to overhaul U.S. financial regulation when he testifies before Congress today. The New York Times reports the regulatory revamp will go further than many analysts had expected and will subject hedge funds and traders of complex financial instruments to "potentially strict new government supervision." The Washington Post reports the plan will also seek to enforce uniform standards on all large financial firms, including banks, placing significant limits on the scope of their investment activities.

The Financial Times reports Geithner's regulatory plans are winning broad support in Congress but says they may also prove worrisome to creditors. The article adds that Geithner might have to manage turf battles between regulatory agencies over who implements the new regulation.

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that new risks are also becoming apparent in Geithner's plan for getting bad assets off the books of banks--the so-called public-private investment partnerships aimed at getting investors to assign value to and buy up the risky assets like mortgage-backed debt securities that are gumming up credit markets. Much of the concern voiced publicly, the Journal says, has been over whether investors would be willing to buy these assets, but a potentially bigger problem is that banks, sensing they are being ripped off, might refuse to sell them.

For more on Geithner's plans to stabilize financial markets and implement new regulation, see his address yesterday at CFR. A briefing of the address is available here. The video is here.

A new Backgrounder, meanwhile, outlines the parameters of Geithner's Financial Stability Plan, which encompasses the programs mentioned above.

MIDDLE EAST: Iraq Bombing

A car bombing in Baghdad killed at least sixteen (Aswat al-Iraq) and injured thirty-five more people.

SAUDI: Riyadh's monetary agency reported that credit availability grew 15 percent (Arab News) in Saudi Arabia this February, compared to a year before, and said that in sharp contrast to other parts of the world Saudi Arabia is not experiencing credit liquidity problems.

PACIFIC RIM: China Reacts to Military Report

The BBC reports Beijing reacted sharply toward a U.S. Defense Department report that says China's rapid development of its armed forces is dramatically shifting the power balance in Asia. A foreign ministry spokesperson for China said the report represented a "gross distortion of the facts" and "Cold War thinking."

Here is the text of the report itself (PDF). The Pentagon's annual report to Congress on China's military power draws Beijing's ire every year.

This CFR.org Backgrounder examines China's military power and U.S. policy response to Beijing's militarization agenda.

This Backgrounder looks at how China's neighbors respond to its military power.

TIBET: The Economist looks at China's preparations for Tibet's "serf liberation day," which on Saturday marks the anniversary of the day the territory was folded into China, and says "with grim determination the authorities are trying to manufacture joy."

This CFR.org Backgrounder looks at the roots of China-Tibet tensions.

SOUTH & CENTRAL ASIA: Iran-Afghanistan

Iran accepted a U.S. invitation (AP) to attend a summit on the future of Afghanistan next Tuesday.

This Backgrounder looks at Iranian interests in Afghanistan and says cooperation with the United States could be a stepping stone toward improved relations between Tehran and Washington.

PAKISTAN-AFGHANISTAN: The New York Times reports that the Taliban's widening military campaign in southern Afghanistan is being facilitated by Pakistan's powerful military intelligence agency, the ISI.

This Backgrounder profiles the ISI.

A suicide blast in a restaurant in the Pakistani town of Jandola, near southern Waziristan, killed eleven people (al-Jazeera).

AFRICA: France-DRC Meetings

French President Nicolas Sarkozy meets today with Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, in Kinshasa. The FT reports Sarkozy will pressure Kabila to put mines in eastern Congo under a supranational authority, sharing resources with Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda, in an effort to bring peace to the region. The paper says Sarkozy seeks to carve out a peacemaking role for France in central Africa.

Bloomberg reports the French president is also keen to push French investment in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Radio France Internationale surveys French media coverage of Sarkozy's trip.

SUDAN: The BBC reports some 750 people have died this month in clashes in South Sudan over the practice of "cattle rustling"--with rival ethnic groups launching livestock raids on one another. The United Nations says aid deliveries to the region have been disrupted by the fighting.

AMERICAS: Clinton in Mexico

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that the United States shares blame (Dallas Morning News) for narcotics-related violence in Mexico and promised more aggressive efforts on the part of the United States to stop drug violence in Mexico.

BRAZIL-BRITAIN: The BBC reports British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is holding meetings with Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in an effort to forge consensus ahead of next week's G-20 summit talks on the financial crisis.

EUROPE: Russia's Government

The Moscow Times reports the Kremlin will double its issuance of state-backed bonds this year in an effort to raise money due to the strains of the financial crisis.

BRITAIN: The Guardian looks at London's parallel effort to issue new bonds and said today's successful sale of bonds through a gilt auction brought a sigh of relief for British policymakers.

OPINION ROUNDUP

In Thursday's roundup: the U.S. and China, the G2 at the G-20; thirty years of peace between Egypt and Israel; and President Obama's talks with Australia's Prime Minister.

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