US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers are two leading candidates to succeed World Bank president Robert Zoellick when he leaves in June, said two people familiar with Obama administration discussions.
The US promised a candidate “in the coming weeks” for the post that has always been held by one of its citizens, while officials from Brazil and Mexico vowed to make the selection process open to emerging markets.
“It is very important that we continue to have strong, effective leadership in this important institution,” treasury secretary Timothy F Geithner said in an e-mail on Wednesday, four hours after Zoellick, 58, announced he will leave at the end of his five-year term. The US choice will have “the experience and requisite qualities to take this institution forward,” Geithner said.
While Summers has expressed interest in the position and has supporters inside the administration, the position would be Clinton’s if she sought it, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity about the private conversations.
Clinton, who said previously she doesn’t plan to remain in her post if Barack Obama wins a second term, repeatedly has denied having an interest in the World Bank job. State department spokesman Victoria Nuland repeated those denials.
“The secretary has addressed this issue many times since last year,” Nuland said at a briefing in Washington. “She has said this is not happening. Her view has not changed.” Summers was travelling and unavailable for comment, his assistant, Julie Shample, said.
Officials in China, Brazil and Mexico jumped in to support the chances of someone from outside the US, possibly from an emerging-market country, to head the Washington-based lender. “There’s no reason for the principal leader to come from a specific country,” Brazil’s finance minister Guido Mantega told reporters. “Emerging markets have the right to seek the leadership of the World Bank.”