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ECB could get first woman president on French suggestion to EU

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Bank of France deputy governor Sylvie Goulard (left) and IMF managing director Christine Lagarde (right) are among several French women considered suitably qualified to become ECB president.

Paris

THE European Central Bank could be headed for its first-ever female president as European Union leaders haggle over top policy positions.

France considers the ECB presidency as a viable target and would prefer that a woman gets the role, according to a person familiar with the matter, who said there are several French women suitably qualified including International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde.

Other names floated in the past include Bank of France deputy governor Sylvie Goulard, and OECD chief economist Laurence Boone. Another option might be Odile Renaud Basso, head of the French treasury.

France isn't actively promoting its ECB candidates at this point. That piece of the jigsaw will depend on whether another Frenchman, Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, fails to become head of the commission.

EU leaders met through Sunday night to negotiate a suite of top posts, and were struggling to reach agreement on a package that would see Dutch socialist Frans Timmermans lead the commission. The candidates under discussion for the other main political posts, including the head of the council of leaders and the foreign policy chief, are unlikely to include any French people, leaving French President Emmanuel Macron in pole position to claim the ECB job.

Heading into the summit on Sunday, Luxembourg Prime Minister PM Xavier Bettel said leaders should commit to making the next central bank chief a woman.

The French proposal could mute resistance to the nation gaining the ECB leadership for the second time. Jean-Claude Trichet was ECB chief from 2003-2011. So far all the contenders seen as having the best chance of being nominated were men, including Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann and Bank of France governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau. BLOOMBERG