Lagarde 'positive' about meetings with Chinese officials

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 June, 2011, 12:00am


Christine Lagarde's bid to lead the International Monetary Fund seems to be gaining momentum. The French finance minister described her just-concluded Beijing trip as 'positive' and a Chinese central bank newspaper said she would be the right person for the job.

Lagarde spoke enthusiastically of her talks with the Chinese central bank and Finance Ministry officials about her candidacy, but she stopped short of saying she had won Beijing's support.

'I'm very positive about my trip to China, but the decision does not belong to me. It belongs to the Chinese authorities,' she said yesterday at a news conference at the French embassy in Beijing, her latest stop on a world tour to seek support for her IMF candidacy.

'I'm confident; I'm very positive about the meetings I've had so far,' Lagarde said.

However, she added that 'some governments and some countries have decided to go public early. My sense is that it's too early to count your chickens, if I may say.'

Beijing has remained tight-lipped about whom it will support, but the Financial News, a newspaper published by the People's Bank of China (PBOC), said that Lagarde was the right candidate to lead the IMF. A front-page report yesterday said she faced no real opposition in her campaign and could offer a fresh outlook as the first woman to lead the international organisation.

However, a successful bid by Lagarde would not mean that the calls from emerging nations to end the convention of selecting a European to lead the IMF were being ignored, the report said.

'The selection of IMF chief this time is more like responding to the current European sovereign debt crisis than a reflection of a tradition that the IMF should be headed by a European,' it said.

On Wednesday the French minister held a meeting with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, People's Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan, Finance Minister Xie Xuren and Vice-Premier Wang Qishan.

Wrapping up her trip, Lagarde said yesterday: 'I am very satisfied with the visit that I had on Wednesday in Beijing with my Chinese friends.'

She expressed support for allowing emerging markets, including China, a bigger say in the fund, adding that it was 'appropriate' for Zhu Min, former deputy governor of China's central bank and currently special adviser to the managing director of the IMF, to play a key role in its management.

Chinese officials have given no sign of whether Beijing will support Lagarde. 'China hopes relevant parties will decide through democratic consultations,' Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a news briefing yesterday.

He Liping, a finance professor at Beijing Normal University, said Lagarde was in an advantageous position. China, he said, had been looking forward to changing the power structure of the IMF through the current selection process, and that China and France had common views regarding international currency and reforming financial institutions. 'Considering that background, Lagarde has more advantages in seeking China's backing.'

Chen Zhimin, who specialises in international politics at Fudan University in Shanghai, said China needed to gauge the reactions of other countries to Lagarde before announcing its official stance.