The battle lines are now drawn, and McHenry’s letter shows the arguments that will be deployed in Congress by some Republicans close to the president. There has always been a strand of thinking in Washington that dislikes foreign entanglements, in this and other areas. While Yellen’s arguments are correct, the Fed’s entitlement to participate in international negotiations does not oblige it to do so, and a new appointee might argue that it should not.
Such a reversal would generate tensions within the Fed, and where it would leave the FSB, or indeed the Basel Committee, is unclear. In the early days of the Bank for International Settlements (where the Basel Committee’s secretariat is located) in the 1930s, the US government declined to take a board seat, and the US was represented by JP Morgan. It is a little hard to see that arrangement working well today.
These questions are of more than passing interest in Europe. European capital adequacy directives typically transpose Basel accords into EU law. If the Basel process stalls, transatlantic deals, which are the crucial underpinning of western capital markets, will be far harder to reach.