Lagarde Gets U.S. Support for IMF Managing Director’s Job

France's Finance Minister Christine Lagarde
Christine Lagarde, France's finance minister. Photographer: Antoine Antoniol/Bloomberg

The U.S. supports French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to become the next head of the International Monetary Fund, the Treasury Department said today.

“Minister Lagarde’s exceptional talent and broad experience will provide invaluable leadership for this indispensable institution at a critical time for the global economy,” Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said in a statement released in Washington.

Backed by Europe, the U.S. and several major developing countries, Lagarde has more than half the votes needed to win the top job when the IMF board meets later today. The Washington-based lender will be choosing a new leader to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who is facing sexual assault charges in New York.

Geithner also congratulated Lagarde’s rival, Mexican central bank chief Agustin Carstens, for a “strong and very credible candidacy.”

The new leader leader’s tasks will include deciding whether the IMF is ready to provide further funding for the international bailout of Greece.

Brazil plans to announce later today it will support Lagarde’s bid, said a Brazilian government official who declined to be named because he’s not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Brazil’s support comes after Lagarde agreed to increase quotas for emerging markets at the IMF.

Russia's Support

Russia is also among the countries endorsing her candidacy, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said today.

Lagarde, 55, would be the first female chief of the IMF. She is the first and only woman finance minister in the Group of Seven nations, and was the first female chairman of Chicago-based Baker & McKenzie LLP, the world’s fifth biggest law firm by revenue last year.

Lagarde was appointed finance minister by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in June 2007, just before the onset of the financial crisis.

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