China is next stop on Lagarde's IMF tour
French finance minister Christine Lagarde was to meet senior Chinese officials on Wednesday in Beijing, the latest stop on her global tour to convince emerging countries to back her bid to lead the IMF.
Lagarde, a 55-year-old former lawyer seeking to be the first female managing director of the International Monetary Fund, was to arrive in China from India, where a day of talks with Indian leaders did not yield any public endorsement.
China, India and other emerging nations have baulked at Europe's traditional lock on the top job at the Washington-based IMF, calling the arrangement outdated, and so their support is seen as key to the success of Lagarde's bid.
On Wednesday, Lagarde was to meet China's central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan, Vice Premier Wang Qishan, Finance Minister Xie Xuren and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, a French embassy official told AFP.
Lagarde is seen as the frontrunner to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned last month after his arrest on sexual assault charges. He pleaded not guilty in a New York court on Monday to the attempted rape of a hotel maid.
Two weeks ago, France's chief government spokesman Francois Baroin said China was "favourable to the candidacy of Christine Lagarde", but did not offer any evidence to back up his statement.
China's foreign ministry subsequently said the choice of a new IMF chief should be based on "openness, transparency and merit, and better represent emerging markets and better reflect changes in the world economic structure".
Lagarde -- who has already visited Brazil, another major emerging economy -- has pledged to reform the IMF to give emerging and developing countries more power.
Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Tuesday after meeting Lagarde that the choice of an IMF chief should be based on "merit" and "competence".
He added that talks with Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa -- who make up the the so-called BRICS bloc along with India -- aimed at agreeing on a joint candidate were continuing.
Much could hinge on whether China unites with other BRICS nations rather than doing its own deal with Europe and the United States, with some reports suggesting China is seeking to place its own candidate as Lagarde's number two.
Lagarde is to give a press conference on Thursday in Beijing before heading on Friday to Lisbon, where African finance ministers and central bankers will be meeting for the African Development Bank's annual gathering.
The only other serious IMF contender, Mexico's central bank chief Agustin Carstens, was to visit Canada on Tuesday and India on Friday on a tour that has already seen him stop off in Brazil and Argentina.
The deadline for nominations is on Friday, leaving only a few days for anyone else to emerge.
© 2011 AFP