Lagarde in China on IMF charm tour

8th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

French finance minister Christine Lagarde met with senior Chinese officials Wednesday as she pursues a global roadshow trying to persuade sceptical 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, travelled to Beijing 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nations have baulked at Europe's traditional lock on the top job at the Washington-based IMF, calling the arrangement outdated, so that their support is seen as key to the success of Lagarde's bid.

Lagarde began a marathon day of talks over lunch with central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan, followed by a meeting with Vice Premier Wang Qishan -- China's top official on financial affairs, a French embassy official told AFP.

She plans to meet Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi later in the afternoon before a dinner meeting with Finance Minister Xie Xuren.

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 -- the world's second-largest economy -- 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.

Lagarde said she had not gone to India "seeking assurance or reassurance" but simply to present her candidacy and "listen to the concerns" of an important emerging market economy.

"It would be premature and arrogant on my part to expect assurance or reassurance," she said in New Delhi.

Lagarde was 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, visited Canada on Tuesday and was to head to 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

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