People walk past the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg)  

Trump Seeks World Bank Candidate Who Can Retain U.S. Grip, Sources Say

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration is considering senior U.S. officials David Malpass and Mark Green among several candidates to lead the World Bank as it seeks to maintain the tradition of placing an American at the helm of the development lender, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump Seeks World Bank Candidate Who Can Retain U.S. Grip, Sources Say

The White House has developed a preliminary list of potential nominees that also includes Ray Washburne, president of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a government agency that helps American companies invest in emerging markets, according to the people who asked not to be identified because the process isn’t public. Washburne, who co-founded a chain that includes restaurants Mi Cocina and Taco Diner, was vice chairman of a fundraising committee for President Donald Trump’s election campaign.

Other names that have come up for the job include former ambassador to Germany Robert Kimmitt and former White House adviser and Goldman Sachs executive Dina Powell, in addition to Treasury’s undersecretary for international affairs Malpass and Green, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to the people.

Trump Seeks World Bank Candidate Who Can Retain U.S. Grip, Sources Say

The search is still in the early stages and the proposed candidates could change, the people cautioned. The White House is also considering former PepsiCo Inc. Chief Executive Officer Indra Nooyi, the New York Times reported Tuesday. Nooyi was among dozens of business executives who last year signed a letter expressing “serious concerns” about the Trump administration’s immigration policy changes and their potential to undermine economic growth.

Trump Seeks World Bank Candidate Who Can Retain U.S. Grip, Sources Say

Leaving Early

The White House and Treasury Department are working on a short list of candidates, after World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced he was leaving the role more than three years early to become vice chairman at investment firm Global Infrastructure Partners. The bank’s second in command, Kristalina Georgieva, will take over on an interim basis on Feb. 1.

Kim’s departure has reignited debate about the mission of the World Bank, which committed nearly $64 billion in loans last year, and America’s role as its biggest shareholder. Under an informal trans-Atlantic pact, an American has always run the World Bank, while the managing director of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, has always been a European.

Trump Seeks World Bank Candidate Who Can Retain U.S. Grip, Sources Say

But the rising clout of countries such as China and India is driving support for a non-American candidate. “We really need to break the gentleman’s agreement between Europe and the United States,” said Kevin Gallagher, professor of global development policy at Boston University. “Whoever the next person is needs to have global legitimacy.”

Quick Decision

The bank’s executive board has given its 189 member nations until March 14 to nominate candidates. It will publish a short list of three candidates and aims to pick a new president by mid-April. The ideal candidate would have experience managing large organizations, a vision for the World Bank’s development mission and a commitment to international cooperation, the board said.

The nomination process represents an intriguing test of Trump’s “America First” approach to foreign policy. Trump has expressed disdain for the World Trade Organization and NATO, though the U.S. supported a $13 billion capital increase for the World Bank last year. A nominee hostile to international institutions may face difficulty rallying support among other countries.

Trump Seeks World Bank Candidate Who Can Retain U.S. Grip, Sources Say

“The challenge for the U.S. is to win the room,” said Martin Edwards, an international relations professor at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. “They will try to find a moderate.”

The White House this week shot down speculation that Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka might be in the running. Ivanka Trump will work with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to come up with a nominee. In 2017, the World Bank started a fund to finance women entrepreneurs, an idea it developed in tandem with the president’s daughter.

Kim was appointed in 2012 to succeed Robert Zoellick. In that race, Kim beat out Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, then Nigeria’s finance minister, and Jose Antonio Ocampo, a Colombian national and professor at Columbia University in New York.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.