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Interview

New Inter-American bank chief eyes fresh funds for Latin America

IDB's first US leader concerned by China's clout in pandemic-hit neighbors

Mauricio Claver-Carone became the first American elected president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on Sept. 12.   © EFE

MEXICO CITY -- The Inter-American Development Bank will start negotiations with members for a capital increase "right away" under new leader Mauricio Claver-Carone, looking to meet financing demands in Latin America and support the region's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Claver-Carone, deputy assistant to U.S. President Donald Trump and senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council, became the first American elected president of the IDB on Sept. 12. The incoming leader plans to act as soon as he assumes the office Oct. 1, he told Nikkei in a phone interview.

Latin America "is facing its worst recession in history," Claver-Carone said, adding that "the financing needs of the region are large."

Latin America and the Caribbean need "anywhere from $5 billion to $10 billion per year" in additional loans and guarantees, he said.

The IDB's formal capitalization totaled $176.7 billion at the end of 2019. The bank's 22 non-borrowing members include the U.S., Canada, Japan, South Korea and China.

"Hopefully, we can conclude [negotiations] by the end of the year," or at least by the next board of governors meeting in Barranquilla, Colombia, in March 2021, he said.

Washington pushed for Claver-Carone's election as IDB president in an effort to curb China's influence in Latin America, which has grown since the 2000s through increased trade, investment and loan. Aggressive Chinese investment in countries like Ecuador and Venezuela "is a concern to everyone," the incoming leader said.

"The biggest complaint" in the past 60 years has "been about the United States not caring enough about the IDB ... that it didn't see its true potential," Claver-Carone said.

Washington's friends and partners in the region "felt very assured by us taking a leadership role at this time, particularly when" the bank needs support in the U.S., he said.

Regarding the coronavirus, Claver-Carone said the IDB could play an important role in vaccine development and in filling gaps, both financial and otherwise, for the region's economic recovery.

Claver-Carone discussed the importance of ensuring access to digital technologies and financing for new businesses, particularly among women and minorities. "The question for the IDB is: How do we help generate employment?" he said.

Additional reporting by Deborah Martinez in Mexico City.

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