WHEN: Today, Thursday, Nov. 11th
WHERE: CNBC's Business Day Programming
Following is an unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner today, Thursday, Nov. 11th. Excerpts of the interview will run throughout CNBC's Business Day programming beginning with "Worldwide Exchange" at 5AM ET.
All references must be sourced to CNBC.
Liesman: how much concern are you hearing from your g20 counterparts on issues of the dollar, the deficit and the Fed's latest action and how are you responding?
Geithner: most of what you are seeing steve around the world is encouraging sign of the recovery. You see that in asia in particular and emerging markets where growth is strong and strong for some time now. You see the world look at the growth prospects in those countries and say they are going to bet on a long period of growth here. It's a very healthy thing and good for the U.S.. As you know U.S. export growth is very strong and it will be strong in future as these countries grow faster. I think that's encouraging so it's a different set of risks than we faced during the crisis, different set of risks we faced than the early stage of the recovery. But fundamentally there's a sign of confidence in the sustainability, durability of the expansion you're seeing.
Liesman: That's one way to look at it, the other way, other countries are concerned about the declining dollar, concerned the U.S. is embarking on path to weaken the dollar and they have concerns about their own future?
Geithner: The U.S. will never do that. We will never seek to weaken our currency as a tool to gain competitive advantage or to grow the economy. It's not an effective strategy for any country and it's not for the U.S.. We'll never do that, again mostly what you see, if you look at broader arc of financial markets over the last 2 and a half years is, you see a period where when the world was most concerned about the potential risk of global depression, most concerned of systemic collapse, you saw the world seek the safety in the risk free assets of the U.S.. The dollar generally rose during that period of time and as the world becomes more progressively confident, some of those safe haven inflows have been reversed. That's been the dominant trend we see. That's very encouraging not just about people's confidence in the U.S. but a sign of greater confidence that although we face challenges in the U.S. and globally, the risks we face are more manageable than we faced at any time over the last 2 and a half years.
Liesman: I don't want to belabor the point, especially since i know how much you like talking about the Dollar, but former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan says "America is pursuing a policy of currency weakening" and the Fed has just said it's going to print another 600 billion dollars. How does that not equate to the U.S. having a policy to weaken the dollar?
Geithner: I have enormous respect for Greenspan, had the privilege of working with him for a long period of years but that's not an accurate description of either the Fed's policies or our policies and again I don't think it's an accurate description of what's happening in markets today.
Liesman: Greenspan does conclude similar to you, that the way around the world's troubles is by solving global imbalances. How bright is the prospect that you'll get strong language in resolving imbalances in the G20 statement.
Geithner: i'm very confident you will see world come together and embrace this basic framework of cooperation we laid out 2 weeks ago with finance ministers and central bank governors. And it's worth stepping back to see what are the basic objectives of this proposal and they are to make sure that as the world recovers, we don't set in motion the types of forces that could lead to a re-emergence of excessive imbalances around the world, deficits and surpluses, because those would threaten future growth, make growth more fragile in the future and make financial stability more at risk. That's why it matters we have more balance as countries grow, provided a proposal that allows for a cooperative framework to manage through those kinds of things. And i think you're going to see very broad support for that because again it's better than the alternative, because the alternative is countries want to go their own way and you see the cooperative forces so important in solving the crisis dissipate. That would be very damaging to the world.
Liesman: But the idea of numerical limits is not going to happen here at G20?
Geithner: We're proposing that we develop over time a set of indicators that we can use as an early warning signal of the risk of the re-emergence of imbalances. So if you can design a set of indicators that give you early warning of those risks then we're likely to see catalyzed policy changes in the major economies sooner, and therefore avoid the risk that again puts future growth in peril. Balance matters because we care about strong growth and financial stability and it's because of those objectives that we want to focus right now on making sure that we have strong cooperation to reduce those risks in the future
Liesman: We understand that the G20 communique will have countries sign on to more flexible exchange rates that are market based. Yhy is that important, what's to stop countries from signing this agreement and going home and pursuing the same policies they pursued?
Geithner: I think this is the way to explain it. If you work against the pressure of market forces and fundamental forces, that pressure is going to move elsewhere and it's going to end up in higher inflation, higher asset prices with greater risk of those countries, that their growth rates will weaken in the future. So what the importance of this set of broad norms that we propose for exchange rate policy is you have all countries recognizing they are better over time moving towards flexible exchange rates and allowing fundamental forces reflected in gradual appreciation of their exchange rates and this is important Steve because what you see right now is you have a world in which among emerging economies, some economies run more flexible exchange rates and some don't. What that means is all the pressure you see falls disproportionately to those emerging market economies that allow their currencies to move and that's unfair to them and creates a set of broader tensions in the economy that are worth trying to avoid.
Liesman: So how does signing on to a G20 statement in this regard help this process, what's the policing process, is the IMF the right one to do it?
Geithner: You need a neutral, independent arbitrator and the IMF is really the only one to play that role. It's important for everybody to understand that the world is going to play with a common set of understanding about the rules and norms of behaviour in this area. The example I like to use is, the world is going to be more comfortable, the emerging world, letting their currencies continue to move if they're confident China is going to move.
China will be confident that they can allow this process of gradual appreciation continue, if they know that the countries they compete with are going to let their currencies move up too. So it's valuable to have everybody sign up to the same basic framework.
Liesman: Have you made any progress in dealings with China on the currency issue?
Geithner: I believe we are but you can see it every day in the market. They held their currency constant throughout the crisis while many currencies around the world fell against the Dollar, fell against the Renminbi. But in june this year they announced they would let their currency move again. They moved very slowly. They accelerated the process of appreciation in late summer, early fall and it's very important to them and i think they believe this in China too, that they let this process continue. Again because if you resist those market forces that are just a reflection of confidence that you're going to see strong growth in china, strong productivity growth in china, if you resist those market forces, that pressure is not going to go away. It's just going to end up in higher inflation or higher asset prices and that'll be bad for china.
Liesman: Talk about another part of the world, do you have renewed concerns given what's happening with markets, given what's happening in European debt markets right now?
Geithner: We're obviously following those developments very closely. Had a number of conversations with my counterparts in Europe over last several days about this and we'll continue to watch it closely and I'm sure we'll have lots of discussions on the margins of this meeting with the Europeans and of course the IMF.
Liesman: Is it still a potential source of global panic or crisis
Geithner: I dont think it needs to be. Europe, they put in place in the summer, a very strong set of tools, financial tools, strong framework they can use to help those countries manage through these problems and I think that leaves it completely in Europe's capacity to manage it carefully.
Liesman: What is the agreed plan you expect out of G20 for capital standards for the world's biggest most systemically risky banks?
Geithner: What I expect you're going to see is the heads of state endorse, support, the new standards for reducing risk and leverage across the largest global financial institutions. Those standards which you know were negotiated in September with a very active role played by the U.S., set much more appropriately conservative financial standards through higher capital requirements across the major institutions and that's very important because the best way, the most important way to reduce future crises is to make sure those financial institutions hold more capital, hold more cushion against the risks they take.
Liesman: But will there be a two-tier system where the largest domestic banks won't be subject to the same requirements as the global banks?
Geithner: I don't think I'd say it quite that way. The rationale for a level playing field for capital standards, was always designed to make sure that those institutions that compete globally, both within their markets and around the world, are held to a very strong, very tough capital standards. And what's appropriate for them, may not be necessary for the full range of other small banks that exist in our markets and in the other economies and you know in the U.S. we have between 8 to 9 thousand banks in U.S. and what we've been determined to do is make sure those largest institutions, those whose mistakes in the future could cause the most damage, are held to a more exacting set of standards for leveraged risk and capital.
Liesman: Couple of domestic questions, what's the right compromise on the Bush tax cuts
Geithner: The right compromise (smile) well you know what the president's position is and I think that's the absolute right policy for the country. The most important thing we can do is make sure we extend the middle class tax cuts to give 98% of Americans the certainty that their tax rates are going to be left unchanged going forward and then there's a range of things we can do to help encourage business investment, help encourage growth and investment in the U.S. that will be good for growth in the near term, get more Americans back to work and good for long term growth as a whole. Those are our priorities. Now there's lots of other views out there. Now what we don't think we can do is to permanently extend those tax cuts that go to just the top 2% of earners in the U.S. because that's very expensive over long term and we think there's much better uses of that money not just to help reduce our very substantial long term fiscal deficits but to give us more room to do things that are good for growth in the U.S..
Liesman: I'm sorry i couldn't help but hear you emphasize the word "permanently" extend. Is there wiggle room then to perhaps extend them?
Geithner: Steve I don't have any new suggestions to give you beyond what the president has laid out in the initial days after the elections. But you know he's going to meet with the republican leadership, the democratic leadership in a few days and they'll have a chance to figure out the best strategy for the country. We're making some progress from the damage caused by the crisis, we're in a much stronger position now to deal with our challenges but we still have millions out of work. We want to make sure we're doing things to strengthen growth, the competitiveness of the American economy and of course we need to come together to see how we can bring those long term fiscal deficits down over the medium term as our economy recovers.
Liesman: Can you tell me how the election results have changed your thoughts on the economic agenda and economic possibilities?
Geithner: I don't think the election changes the challenges facing the country and what's uncertain still is where we're going to find consensus among Democrats and Republicans to try and address those challenges. But the challenges we face going forward are the same we had 2 months ago. Again they are: very high levels of unemployment, concern about our capacity to grow and be competitive in the future, and how we deal with those long term deficits. And the president's position as you know, is to make sure on the tax side, we do what's fair and right for middle class Americans, we want to strengthen the incentives to invest in the U.S., we want to make sure we're rebuilding pulblic infrastructure becaues that's good for long term growth and helps get more people back to work more quickly. And we're growing exports because America's future will depend on how successful we are in being part of the very large growth you're seeing in the region.
Liesman: Can you comment on the reports we heard coming out of the deficit commission about raising the retirement age and phasing in spending cuts?
Geithner: Well you heard the white house say this morning or a few hours ago that the President will take a look at whatever recommendations come out, but we're not going to comment on this initial proposal until we've seen the full report and its recommendations.
Liesman: Vikram Pandit was quoted in FT today saying we should rethink Basel because growth will suffer. He's been warning against higher capital standards for the biggest banks. What's your reaction there?
Geithner: I'll say again, the most important thing we can do and it's our basic obligation given the damage from this crisis is to make sure these large institutions, large in our markets and they can be globally, run with less leverage and less risk and hold more capital against that risk. That is overwhelmingly important and i wouldn't listen too carefully to those people running those institutions who told us for years and years and years, they knew better than anybody else how to manage their risk.
Liesman: You still on track for a housing report in January?
Geithner: A GSC reform report? we are , we are
Geithner: And we're going to lay out our proposals for how we reform the housing finance system and then begin the process of how we can legislate.
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