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Clinton denies wanting World Bank top job

State Department and White House officials have firmly denied reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is vying to become the head of the World Bank next year — which is too bad, according to several development experts, because she’d be perfect for the job. Despite denials from longtime Clinton aide Philippe Reines that Clinton ...

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

State Department and White House officials have firmly denied reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is vying to become the head of the World Bank next year -- which is too bad, according to several development experts, because she'd be perfect for the job.

Despite denials from longtime Clinton aide Philippe Reines that Clinton "has expressed absolutely no interest in the job" and would not take it if offered, Reuters reaffirmed its story that Clinton has expressed interest in being the World Bank's next president. Though Clinton also later denied the story herself, two sources also told The Cable that the reports of Clinton's interest in moving to the World Bank were credible.

Clinton has said that she has no interest in staying on as secretary of state during a second Obama term, and also has no interest in another post in the administration. Whether she is under consideration for the position, several development experts said that her longstanding interest in development would make her a good fit for the World Bank. "Take a look at the background of other World Bank presidents -- she probably comes with a longer and deeper commitment to development than any of them," said George Ingram, the co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

State Department and White House officials have firmly denied reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is vying to become the head of the World Bank next year — which is too bad, according to several development experts, because she’d be perfect for the job.

Despite denials from longtime Clinton aide Philippe Reines that Clinton "has expressed absolutely no interest in the job" and would not take it if offered, Reuters reaffirmed its story that Clinton has expressed interest in being the World Bank’s next president. Though Clinton also later denied the story herself, two sources also told The Cable that the reports of Clinton’s interest in moving to the World Bank were credible.

Clinton has said that she has no interest in staying on as secretary of state during a second Obama term, and also has no interest in another post in the administration. Whether she is under consideration for the position, several development experts said that her longstanding interest in development would make her a good fit for the World Bank. "Take a look at the background of other World Bank presidents — she probably comes with a longer and deeper commitment to development than any of them," said George Ingram, the co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

Development experts said that Clinton has been a strong supporter of elevating development programs as a core part of U.S. foreign policy since her days as first lady. In 2010, she spearheaded the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which granted USAID increased control over its policy planning, increased the agency’s staffing, and gave it leadership over new aid initiatives.

But some observers fear that Clinton’s departure from the State Department could undo some of her hard-won gains. "I think she has used her star power, as a particularly high-profile secretary of state, to focus on questions of global development," said Noam Unger, the policy director of Brookings Institution’s Foreign Assistance Reform Project. "[T]he question is whether she has systemically shifted U.S. foreign policy apparatus in a way that will last beyond the force of her personality."

If Clinton was to take the position, she would be the first woman to assume the role — but her selection would also mark a continuation of the "gentleman’s agreement" between the United States and Europe that reserves the top positions at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for an American and a European, respectively. That understanding has come under increasing criticism from developing countries, particularly Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the "BRICs"), who have pressed for one of their own to assume the top spot at the world’s premier international financial institutions. (The managing director position at the International Monetary Fund is also open, but France’s Christine Lagarde increasingly seems to have a lock on the job.)

With or without Clinton, Unger said that developing countries’ insistence on being granted a greater role makes it unlikely that the United States and Europe can sustain their "gentleman’s agreement" much longer. "I think that game only has so much time to play itself out, and eventually, with the rising influence of emerging powers and developing countries, that will change," he said.

Still, those reached by The Cable said that Clinton would be one of the more effective and high-profile World Bank presidents in recent memory — elsewhere on FP, David Rothkopf referred to the report as "one of those stories that is so good it ought to be true." And who knows, maybe all the support will convince Clinton to reconsider her denials.

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