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Page last updated at 10:51 GMT, Tuesday, 22 February 2011
The Geithner interview

By Evan Davis
Today programme

Evan Davis and Timothy Geithner

It wasn't easy getting to sit down with US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. He's a busy man and does not do huge numbers of foreign interviews.

So it seemed worth travelling to Paris for a day to meet him for an allotted 12 minutes.

The rendezvous occurred at Le Bourget airport north of Paris, where his plane was ready to take him home from the G20.

His motorcade arrived a little late, but he was quite relaxed and obviously feeling that the weekend's summitry had gone well.

So was it worth it? Well, the most interesting interviews are always the ones that yield the line you hadn't expected, and for me his unprompted comments on UK financial regulation before the crisis were particularly striking.

Maybe he was fed up hearing the US blamed for the crisis, but he wasn't having any of it.

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Geithner: US 'will pass' budget

I dare say Ed Balls will not be very pleased with that emphasis on a system set up under our previous government.

But Geithner's comments on George Osborne's austerity programme will also ring in the shadow chancellor's ears.

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Timothy Geithner says he is "very impressed" by George Osborne's financial strategy

Of course, it would be rather unusual for Secretary Geithner to make an explicit attack on the UK chancellor , so perhaps we should not read to much into his words. He knows how to be diplomatic.

But the strength of the pro-Osborne case he expressed perhaps at least blunts the attack on Mr Osborne that we have heard, that he is isolated in moving fast to cut the deficit.

As for the US debate on austerity versus growth, it is a very lively one.

President Obama's budget sees huge cuts in the deficit over the next two years but then it stands still at about 3% of national income.

Debt continues to pile up - albeit slowly. Many think the US government needs to do more. Geithner defended the budget and expressed confidence that Congress wouldn't cause trouble (by, for example, failing to give the government permission to borrow the money it needs).

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Geithner: US 'will pass' budget

Finally, there is the issue of bankers and the moral indignation of the US and UK at high salaries of an industry bailed out.

This was the area where Tim Geithner showed real passion.

He was at the New York Federal Reserve at the time Lehman Brothers collapsed and he was in no doubt that liberal commentators should applaud the financial rescues that did occur. (He obviously felt strongly about it, as I had not really questioned the bail-out, just the post-crisis landscape).

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US 'very tough' on risk-taking

You can watch the 15 minute director's cut of the interview here.


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