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Clinton signals US’s high regard for Lagarde

But no nod yet on IMF post

Speaking in Paris yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stopped short of endorsing anyone to lead the IMF. Speaking in Paris yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stopped short of endorsing anyone to lead the IMF.
(Thibault Camus/Associated Press)
Associated Press / May 27, 2011

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DEAUVILLE, France — US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a boost to the candidacy of French finance chief Christine Lagarde for the top job at the International Monetary Fund yesterday, but stopped short of endorsing anyone.

At a conference in Paris, Clinton said, “We welcome women who are well qualified and experienced to head major organizations such as the IMF.’’

She noted that the United States “has not taken a position on any candidacy as yet,’’ but the comment was the clearest indication so far that the United States could again support Europe’s traditional claim to name one of its own to the job.

The IMF’s former chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of France, resigned last week over sex crime allegations.

Analysts say the world leaders at the Group of Eight summit in Deauville must not take for granted that Lagarde is a shoo-in; the candidacy of Mexican central bank governor Agustin Carstens could gain momentum.

The G8 members have major voting power on the IMF’s executive board, which is expected to name a new managing director by the end of June. European nations have rallied behind Lagarde.

A battle has been shaping up between developed and developing nations over whether to let another European take the job, as has happened since the IMF was founded in 1946. An American has always been head of the World Bank, the fund’s sister organization.

IMF executive directors from the Group of 20 countries Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa issued a joint statement this week that expressed support for “abandoning the obsolete unwritten practice of convention that requires that the head of the IMF be necessarily from Europe.’’

China’s Foreign Ministry said Beijing supports a G-20 call for an “open, transparent, merit-based selection’’ as part of reforms of global financial institutions.

South Africa took a firmer stand yesterday. Its government said it “endorsed the view that the next leadership of the IMF should come from the emerging countries.’’

Lagarde’s office said she is looking to travel soon to developing countries like Brazil, Russia, India, and China to woo their leaders as part of her bid.