Sino-Russian joint rating agency aims to break Western credit monopoly

Jun 10, 2014 12:00 AM

The big three in credit rating industry - Fitch, Moody's and Standard & Poor's - will meet a qualified but non-US rival at last, as China and Russia have agreed to found a joint rating agency with the ambition to challenge the current credit rating system.

Russia's Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has confirmed this agreement in Beijing during his recent visit. According to a Financial Times report, people familiar with the plans said China's top-notch rating agency Dagong and a state-backed institution from Russia will be involved.

No details were revealed by Siluanov, and there is no guarantee if the new agency is just an extension of the already established Universal Credit Ratings Group, a joint rating agency established in 2013 by Dagong of China, RusRating of Russia and Egan-Jones of the US.

This message has drawn keen attention from the rest of the world. Some interpret it as Russia's latest step to reduce dependence on the US and Europe as Moscow's standoff with the West remains.

The founding of a new agency is observed from many fixed perspectives. Plenty of doubts and questions have been raised to question its feasibility and independence.

The current credit rating system, which was set up by the big three, has lagged behind the developments of the global economic structure and loan relationships.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, the big three have been blamed more heavily than before.

They gave unfair sovereign ratings to the EU and made the group suffer much greater losses.

But these US-based agencies ignored the US debt ceiling crisis and delayed degrading the sovereign rating of the US. Similar controversial cases can be seen more often than ever.

Besides, lack of competition and slow response to new changes have made the big three less qualified to dominate almost the entire global market.

The Chinese-Russian agency will bring competition and diversity in the credit rating market. These two elements are essential to reenergize the backwaters of the industry.

Breaking the monopoly of the big three is the top goal of the new agency. But it seems that its ultimate purpose is to become an apolitical and NGO-alike institution, which can manufacture rating products with the greatest objectivity.

This will be a completely new model for credit rating, and it offers an idealist way to minimize unfairness and political orientation in the market.

The big three boast of being objective and independent, but in fact there has been an argument that politically driven ratings are common in the entire industry. This means the big three, which have occupied roughly 95 percent of the whole market, are far less impartial than they boast.

However, a bright future doesn't mean the new agency will work out smoothly. It is possible that the project will fall into victim to Utopianism.

The dominance of the big three is still too tough to be rocked. Though being given such labels as apolitical, independent and international, this agency will raise the eyebrows of many Western countries, because in their stubborn mindset, the involvement of a Chinese company will make it State-backed.

This agency, which is unprecedentedly detached from any nation, region and specific company, may also find it demanding to establish a profit model from scratch. How to find a balance between reality and idealism is critical for this new agency. Without the intention of being attached to any interest groups, there is a long way to go for this newborn revolutionist of the credit rating industry.

This article was compiled by Global Times reporter Liu Zhun based on an interview with Wu Jingmei, a professor at the School of Finance, Renmin University of China, and vice director of China Market Credit Management Association.

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