Lagarde visits China on campaign for IMF top job

By LOUISE WATT | June 8, 2011 | 6:00 AM EDT

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde gestures during a press conference, in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, June 7, 2011. India's Finance Minister said Tuesday that the managing director of the International Monetary Fund should be chosen on merit and not nationality as Lagarde visited New Delhi to canvas for the job. India and other emerging nations have called for an end to the convention that requires the IMF head to be from Europe. However, they have not come together with a common candidate to head the IMF. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

BEIJING (AP) — French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde tried to drum up support in China on Wednesday in her campaign to head the International Monetary Fund after a stop in India failed to produce a public endorsement for her candidacy.

Lagarde already has the backing of Britain, Germany and other European nations, but is now courting China and other developing nations that have been pushing for a bigger say in the running of the IMF and World Bank to reflect their growing economic clout.

They have called for an end to the convention that requires the head of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund to be from Europe, but have not come together with a common candidate.

In India on Tuesday, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee would say only the IMF managing director should be chosen on merit, not nationality.

On Wednesday, Lagarde held meetings with central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan, Vice Premier Wang Qishan and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, according to a spokesman for the French Embassy in Beijing. She was also due to meet with Finance Minister Xie Xuren later, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with policy.

Lagarde, who will hold a news conference Thursday before leaving the country, is one of two declared candidates to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The other is Mexican Central Bank Gov. Agustin Carstens.

China has given no sign whether it backs either one, saying it wants the next IMF leader to be selected through "democratic negotiation."

Strauss-Kahn quit as IMF head three weeks ago after he was charged with sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid, an allegation he denies.

The next leader of the IMF, which lends money to countries to help resolve balance of payments problems and financial crises, will be elected June 30 by the body's 24-member executive board. The IMF voting system gives the votes of European countries and the U.S. more weight.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa issued a joint statement late last month expressing support for "abandoning the obsolete unwritten practice" that requires the head of the IMF to be from Europe.