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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

French Relent; EU Set To Back Koch-Weser




BERLIN -- German Deputy Finance Minister Caio Koch-Weser, the likely next chief of the International Monetary Fund, is known as a consensus-builder who speaks six languages and has worked both in developing countries and the industrialized West.


European Union finance ministers look set to propose Koch-Weser as the EU's candidate to succeed France's Michel Camdessus, who retired Monday after 13 years in the post. EU presidency spokesman Manuel Meneses said a consensus was reached after France, which has had the post for 30 years and had been the main stumbling block, agreed to support the German candidate.


In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin seemed to suggest Koch-Weser lacked sufficient clout to head the IMF, given his long background at the development-oriented World Bank and had little experience in international financial markets.


Rubin repeated the U.S. position that "it is important to have the strongest possible managing director ... and it is important to identify a leader of considerable experience and judgment, with credibility in the markets."


There have been reports that some Latin American nations are opposed to Koch-Weser.


As the largest shareholder in the IMF, the United States could line up developing nations opposed to Koch-Weser and block his appointment. But the Americans would have to weigh that choice against infuriating the Europeans, violating the unwritten rule that reserves the IMF top spot for a European.


The finance ministers will make a formal decision at their Feb. 28 meeting in Brussels, Belgium, Meneses said.


German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der has been lobbying hard for Koch-Weser, who spent 26 years at the World Bank before joining the Social Democratic-led government less than a year ago.


Koch-Weser studied in Germany and Brazil, earning a master's degree in economics. He joined the World Bank in 1973 and rose quickly, becoming the bank's managing director for operations in 1996 and also given responsibility for the bank's restructuring.


Supporters see Koch-Weser as a balanced representative of the developing countries, which get help from the Fund - and the rich, Western nations, which are its largest contributors.


But skeptics, especially in France and the United States, have been cool on Koch-Weser for lacking political clout and hands-on experience running a central bank or finance ministry.