Banks are lining up to expand their presence in Canada, and the government welcomes this as a way of fostering competition, Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Wednesday.
"Banks that have already established themselves in Canada as something less than the chartered bank level seek to move up the chain," Flaherty told reporters in Ottawa by telephone from Thailand, where he is promoting Canadian financial institutions.
"We are interested in expanding the availability of bank products in Canada, and there are a number of pending applications."
He was elaborating on a reference in the federal budget he introduced last Thursday that said the government would review how it regulates financial institutions to ensure it promotes the entry and growth of smaller financial institutions in order to foster competition that helps consumers and businesses.
The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions is very careful in assessing the applications and then makes recommendations to him, Flaherty said.
While in Thailand, he said, he raised with authorities there restrictive rules concerning the participation of non-government banks, in particular regarding a deposit tax.
His Thai hosts received his message without any commitment to change at a particular time but acknowledged "the need over time to move toward a level playing field between government and non-government banks," the minister said.
During his trip, he also visited Hong Kong.
(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Will Dunham)
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