Exclusive: ECB's Wellink says US deserves triple-A

By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO (Reuters) - The United States remains a strong economy deserving its triple-A rating, and the S&P downgrade on the credit outlook for the world's biggest economy was a surprise, the European Central Bank's Nout Wellink said.

Speaking to Reuters on Monday after ratings agency Standard & Poor's said there was a one-in-three chance that it could cut its AAA rating for the United States within three years, Wellink said the United States was still doing better than many other AAA-rated countries.

"The U.S. economy is still one of the strongest in the world, so I'm a little bit surprised by this action," he said on the sidelines of a meeting in Toronto.

"It's a triple A country, there's no doubt about that. But again there are budgetary problems and these problems should be solved."

He added: "But you should look around at other countries, it is also a relative issue in that sense. I know quite a lot of countries that are in bigger problems...you should not downgrade countries like the U.S."

(Writing by Janet Guttsman; editing by Jeffrey Hodgson)