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The Financial Times - July 25, 2007 by Scheherazade Daneshkhu and James Blitz Britain will on Wednesday signal that it is not prepared to see the recent controversies over the increasing power of overseas state-backed investors used as a pretext for a new wave of protectionism. In his first major speech as chancellor of the exchequer, Alistair Darling will say that Britain must resist calls to impede corporate ac­quisitions by foreign state investors. His comments follow a warning on Tuesday from Sir John Gieve, deputy governor of the Bank of England, that the rising power and financial clout of state-owned funds in global asset markets will lead to political tension and calls for protectionism. Sir John’s remarks to a City audience – a day after it emerged that the China Development Bank and Singapore’s Temasek are to take stakes in Barclays – showed the increasing concern the issue of sovereign wealth funds has for European policymakers. The International Monetary Fund and the US government warned last month that the spread of sovereign wealth funds could create new risks for the global financial system, while European governments are debating how open their markets should be to state-owned investors such as China, and oil-rich countries with large foreign exchange reserves. Last week, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, voiced concern at the way foreign state- owned funds were acquiring assets inside the EU, saying “sovereign funds” were often driven by “political and other motivations”. She said she was in favour of the EU adopting US procedures designed to vet the possible acquisitions by sovereign funds. “This is a new phenomenon which we must tackle with some urgency,” she said. Mr Darling will on Wednesday signal that the UK should continue welcoming inward investment. But he will stress that foreign governments seeking to buy UK assets must open their own markets as well. Without specifying any countries, the chancellor will underline that “free trade should be just that”. Sir John said the emergence of sovereign wealth funds was just another development in financial markets. But he added: “The switch of reserve-rich countries from lenders to owners of financial or real assets is also likely to lead to political tensions and pressures for protectionism.” Italy spoke out against protectionism on Tuesday. Emma Bonino, international trade minister, opposed the idea of establishing European government-controlled “golden shares” of companies considered of national or strategic interest as “unacceptable in principle, and moreover impracticable”. Commenting on the flopped sale of Alitalia after the government had stipulated its “Italian character” must be preserved, Ms Bonino said: “I don’t care who buys it, it can be the Chinese, or the Eskimos for that matter, as long as they turn it around.”

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