Cablegate: Paris Club - January 2008 Tour D'horizon And

DE RUEHFR #0265/01 0450941
R 140941Z FEB 08





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: At the Paris Club's January 22-24
session, the U.S. and other creditors signed an accord with
Guinea to resume interim debt relief under the enhanced
Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. The
Paris Club (PC) also granted The Gambia 100 percent
cancellation of its eligible stock of debt after The Gambia
reached HIPC completion point. During the Tour d'Horizon,
Russia announced that it would sign the long-delayed
bilateral debt agreement with Iraq during a February 11-12
inter-governmental economic commission meeting in Moscow.
The Secretariat indicated that Paris Club negotiations with
Liberia will now take place in April because the IMF
Executive Board meeting to approve HIPC decision point will
not occur until March. Creditors discussed an outreach
strategy to inform China about the Paris Club's principles
and functions. Paris Club creditors also discussed
relations with Angola, Congo (Brazzaville), Cote d'Ivoire,
Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Grenada, Haiti,
Seychelles, and Togo. Methodological topics discussed
included how creditors implement HIPC interim relief,
countries having no relations with the IMF or Paris Club,
statutes of limitations and their application to sovereign
debt, and the recent OECD discussions about sustainable
lending practices. End Summary.


2. (U) Six of fourteen creditors have concluded bilateral
agreements implementing the late interest settlement
reached with Angola in December 2007. (Under the terms of
the settlement, Angola committed to pay, in three
installments over 26 months, $1.8 billion of $2.2 billion
in late interest owed to Paris Club creditors.) The
Secretariat noted that the settlement called for all

agreements to be concluded before payment of the first
installment planned for January 31, 2008.

Congo (Brazzaville)

3. (U) The IMF reported that performance under the IMF
Staff-Monitored Program (SMP) during the period April-
September 2007 was unsatisfactory. An IMF mission would
depart in the coming weeks to negotiate a new six-month SMP
to get reforms back on track before the Executive Board

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could consider a full-fledged Poverty Reduction and Growth
Facility (PRGF) program. (Congo-Brazzaville reached
decision point under the enhanced HIPC initiative in March
2006, but its PRGF program subsequently went off track,
resulting in a suspension of interim relief from the Paris
Club.) The World Bank reported that it had increased its
lending envelope for Congo-Brazzaville from $75 million to
$130 million. Brazil, Spain, and the UK have not yet
concluded their bilateral agreements with Congo-Brazzaville
implementing the April 2006 Paris Club agreement. Germany
asked for more information about reported PRC financing.

Cote d'Ivoire

4. (U) Creditors supported the Secretariat's
recommendation that Cote d'Ivoire's HIPC common reduction
factor (CRF) be adjusted upward to take into account the
exceptionally generous debt relief the Paris Club
previously provided Cote d'Ivoire in 1998 and 2002. The
IMF welcomed this course of action, noting that it was
consistent with the HIPC initiative and with the Fund's
uniformity of treatment policy. Recognizing the complexity
of the topic and that a higher CRF will require London Club
and other non-Paris Club creditors to provide deeper debt
relief, Paris Club co-chairman Benoit Coeure recommended
the IMF reach out to the London Club at an early stage.
The IMF will also use its forthcoming HIPC paper to convey
this information. The Secretariat reported Cote d'Ivoire's
advisors are working with the London Club. With respect to
Cote d'Ivoire's macroeconomic performance, the IMF's
Executive Board is scheduled to vote on a second Emergency
Post-Conflict Assistance program on February 15. The IMF
reported that in early 2008, Cote d'Ivoire made payments
toward arrears clearance, which had to be completed by the
end of that week (January 25), but still had to close its
financing gap. World Bank and African Development Bank
financing were still being finalized, and Cote d'Ivoire has
issued domestic and regional bonds to raise the necessary
funds. An IMF mission would depart for Abidjan when 4Q
2007 data are available, perhaps in mid-March. The Fund
will seek creditor data for its debt sustainability
analysis. Based on preliminary calculations using end-2006
figures, Cote d'Ivoire would qualify for HIPC due to its
high ratio of external debt to government revenue, although
the common reduction factor would be small. It is unclear
at this stage whether Cote d'Ivoire would go directly to

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HIPC decision point upon approval of a new PRGF (with
performance under the EPCA counting as a track record), or
receive a Naples treatment first. When asked by the
Netherlands about private creditors, both the IMF and the
World Bank indicated there was no evidence that so-called
vulture funds held Ivorian debt.

Democratic Republic of Congo

5. (SBU) The DRC has not yet responded to the Paris Club's
October 31 letter inquiring about the financial arrangement
with China. The IMF said its December mission had achieved
good progress. A new PRGF, which would trigger resumption
of interim HIPC relief, could come to the IMF Executive
Board next month, depending on the outcome of further
discussions with the authorities on pending fiscal and
budget issues. The IMF did not shed more light on the
reported $5 billion joint venture "protocol" that the DRC
recently signed with China to finance the development of
copper mines and infrastructure projects. The IMF said the
composition of debt versus equity still needs to be
clarified, and that the project could complicate DRC's
chances of reaching completion point under the HIPC
initiative. The World Bank indicated that, unless
exceptions to Bank policy were made, the World Bank would
soon reach its ceiling on possible interim HIPC relief for
the DRC.


6. (U) All creditors except Brazil have concluded their
bilateral agreements with Gabon to implement the discounted
buyback agreed in July 2007. (Brazil awaits approval from
its Senate.) France, the Netherlands, and Spain have
already received payment; the other creditors expect to
complete the transaction at the end of January. The IMF
said Gabon is financing the buyback through a $1 billion
Eurobond issue, a $180 million bond issue on the regional
Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC)
market, and $500 million in fiscal reserves. The IMF
reported that the first review of Gabon's Stand-By
Arrangement occurred in December, and that a mission was
scheduled to visit in March to conduct the IMF's Article IV

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The Gambia

7. (U) On January 24, creditors provided The Gambia its
HIPC completion point treatment. (The U.S. is not a
creditor.) In line with their commitment at decision
point, creditors agreed to cancel $4.4 million of debt
(calculated as of December 1999 in present value terms),
including $0.2 million in interim relief already provided.
Austria, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands declined to
cancel on a voluntary basis their remaining $11.9 million
in debts incurred after July 1, 1986 (the Paris Club's
"cut-off date" for The Gambia). (In a discussion among
creditors, France noted that The Gambia should not be
rewarded for borrowing excessively from non-Paris Club
creditors -- in particular Taiwan and Kuwait.) The Gambia's
Secretary of State for Finance and Economic Affairs Mousa

Gibril Bala-Gaye expressed disappointment and hoped
creditors would take to their capitals his request for
cancellation of all post-cutoff date debt. He added that
the February 5-6 donors conference in London would "provide
a second opportunity to be more forthcoming -- as donors,
not creditors." Replying to questions about The Gambia's
efforts to secure comparability of treatment from non-PC
creditors, he outlined high-level approaches to Taiwan
(which he described as willing to consider a change in
legislation to allow debt relief) and Kuwait (which he said
had indicated willingness to consider PC-comparable
relief). The Gambia has sent letters to other creditors
and had received no replies, but expected a response from
OPEC. The minister said these approaches would continue in
March. The IMF reported that its latest analysis indicates
that The Gambia will remain at high risk of debt distress
even after fully benefiting from debt cancellation under
the HIPC and Multilateral Debt Relief initiatives. The
World Bank said its technical assistance to The Gambia in
2008 focuses on improving debt management.


8. (U) The IMF said the first review of the PRGF, which
was due to be completed before the end of April 2007, would
not be completed for another few months at best. Key
issues of concern included excessive government spending in

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2007, the need for tax reforms, and an unregulated bank.
The IMF said progress had been made since it completed
Grenada's Article IV evaluation, and that IMF officials
will visit again in late January. With the PRGF off track,
the second phase of Grenada's May 2006 rescheduling, as
implemented in the U.S.-Grenada bilateral agreement signed
on July 11, 2007, remains on hold. For the U.S., this
means that until the second phase enters into force, the
Export-Import Bank must send bills for payments scheduled
on or after January 1, 2007. Creditors agreed to discuss
the matter again at the March Paris Club session.


9. (U) Following IMF and World Bank approval of a new
three-year PRGF reform program, creditors agreed to a new
debt treatment (Guinea's seventh) to resume interim debt
relief under the HIPC initiative on "Cologne terms,"
normally a 90 percent cancellation of accumulated arrears
and future payments on eligible debt. Given Guinea's
limited capacity to pay, creditors agreed to defer until
2011 the repayment of arrears on debt contracted after
January 1, 1986 (the Paris Club's "cut-off date" for
Guinea) and short-term debt, as well as a portion of post-
cutoff-date payments falling due during the consolidation
period. In accordance with our HIPC policy, the U.S. will
go beyond Cologne terms and forgive all debt payments
(including arrears and late interest) that originated
before the Cologne G8 Summit (June 20, 1999) and that fall
due during the 2008-2010 consolidation period, provided
that Guinea performs on its PRGF. The IMF anticipates that
Guinea could reach its HIPC completion point by the end of
2008. The IMF highlighted Guinea's strong potential for
growth, especially in the mining sector; Guinea's success
in lowering inflation from 40 percent in 2006 to 10 percent
in 2007; and the country's very low level of foreign
exchange reserves. The World Bank reported it had taken
the highly unusual step of increasing its interim HIPC debt
relief to 50 percent of the present value of Guinea's debts
to the Bank, noting that Guinea will need full MDRI and
HIPC debt relief, including comparable debt relief from
non-Paris Club creditors, to bring its debt to a
sustainable level.


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10. (U) The IMF said its Executive Board would act on the
second review of Haiti's PRGF in February, pending the
completion of two structural performance criteria.
However, the PRGF is broadly on track. Creditors will
decide at the next Paris Club session in March whether to
enter into force the second phase of Haiti's 2006 Paris
Club agreement, which is conditioned on completion of the
second PRGF review.


11. (U) Russia announced its intention to sign its long-
delayed bilateral agreement with Iraq implementing the 2004
Paris Club agreement at an inter-governmental economic
commission with Iraqi government officials in Moscow on
February 11 and 12. The Secretariat summarized its January
18 working paper on Iraq's efforts to conclude debt
restructuring agreements with its non-Paris Club bilateral

12. (U) The Secretariat argued it would be inappropriate
for creditors to endorse or even acknowledge Iraq's plan to
unilaterally not recognize late interest owed to bilateral
creditors that have not yet signed a debt restructuring
agreement with Iraq. Canada cautioned that other debtor
countries could interpret the Club's silence as assent and
one day implement a similar policy toward Paris Club
creditors. The IMF said the Iraqi authorities had assured
Fund staff that they had no intention of repudiating Iraq's
debt contracts and would continue their efforts to
normalize relations with external creditors. The
Secretariat reported that, in informal conversations the

week before, it had told Iraq's advisors that the Paris
Club would have difficulty approving the GOI's late
interest proposal; the Secretariat had proposed not to take
an official position on the matter. The GOI, the
Secretariat said, was aware of the Club's position, which

had been conveyed informally.

13. (U) Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden
objected to the Secretariat's recommendation to utilize
European Union and European Commission fora to contact
Iraq's European, non-Paris Club creditors, arguing that the

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EU had no competence in Paris Club matters. The
Netherlands and Sweden said that if the Secretariat were
going to send letters to some of Iraq's non-Paris Club
creditors, it should send letters to all of Iraq's non-
Paris Club creditors (including the Gulf countries and
China) and not differentiate among them based on political
factors. In calling for comparability of treatment and
full participation, the UK sought inclusion of language to
the effect that non-Paris Club creditors should not sell
claims to creditors that do not take part in the HIPC
initiative; the Netherlands advised against the reference
to HIPC, as Iraq is a special case. The Secretariat
questioned whether letters to the Gulf countries would be
effective, and said a letter to China could be awkward
given current Paris Club outreach efforts and the fact that
Iraq was reportedly close to reaching an agreement with
China. In the end, the Secretariat agreed to write to all
of Iraq's non-Paris Club creditors, and agreed not to ask
the EU to approach Iraq's European creditors. Some
European creditors, noting their own efforts, suggested
bilateral demarches as an alternative. The Secretariat
will hold off sending a letter to China pending the outcome
of negotiations between the Iraqi and Chinese authorities.

14. (U) The IMF reported that Iraq's Stand-By Arrangement
would be treated as a precautionary one. Under a regular
SBA, Iraq could draw 40 percent of quota but does not
intend to do so. Consistent with the 2004 Agreed Minute,
the third phase review of the SBA is scheduled to occur no
later than December 31, 2008.


15. (U) The IMF reported that arrears clearance procedures
were finalized and that the Executive Board had approved
the necessary HIPC rule change to allow Liberia's
performance on its Staff-Monitored Program to count toward
HIPC decision point. An IMF mission is in the field, and
work on the preliminary HIPC document is underway in
preparation for approval of Liberia's three-year PRGF and
HIPC decision point in mid-March. As a result, Paris Club
negotiations are now likely to take place in April. The
Secretariat will launch a new data call. The World Bank

singled out the U.S. Treasury for its support in providing
a bridge loan to finance the clearance of Liberia's
arrears, the longest-running default in World Bank history.

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16. (U) The IMF said the authorities' interest in an IMF
program was unclear and that a mission was currently in
country to conduct the Article IV consultation. In March
2007, the authorities initially expressed interest in an
IMF program. During a Fund mission in June and during the
IMF/IBRD Annual Meetings in October, however, the
authorities said they needed more time to consider a
program. Reporting an on-and-off dialogue, the World Bank
said that it had no further claims on the Seychelles after
the authorities had cleared all arrears in 2006. The
Seychelles has one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the
world. France said it would underscore to the authorities
during a planned bilateral meeting in February that an IMF
program would pave the way for a Paris Club debt treatment.
(The US is not a creditor.)


17. (U) The IMF reported increased donor interest
following successful elections in October 2007, although
energy shortages and a current account deficit equivalent
to 6.5 percent of GDP represent significant challenges to
the current recovery. An IMF staff mission reached
preliminary agreement with Togo in December 2007 on a new
three-year PRGF. The program could come to the IMF
Executive Board in the second quarter of 2007. Significant
arrears to the World Bank and African Development Bank will
need to be cleared through an operation similar to what
donors arranged for Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire. The IMF
said it would ask the Paris Club for financing assurances
(a commitment to provide future debt relief) in the near
future. The Secretariat will launch a data call once
financing assurances have been requested.

--------------------------------------------- -----
Methodological Discussion:
Delivery of Interim Relief by Paris Club Creditors
--------------------------------------------- -----

18. (U) Creditors discussed the Secretariat's January 2007
working paper on how to deal with HIPC countries that reach

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decision point but later fail to implement the necessary
reforms under the PRGF program. The working paper outlined
three options with the aim of preserving equity among
creditors. Since the first two options result in virtually
the same outcome for the debtor country, creditors did not
express a preference, although Russia noted that it would
have no legal mechanism to refund amounts that had been due
and paid. The U.S., supported by Australia, Canada,
Italy, Spain, and the UK, expressed concern about option
three in the paper, noting that it ran counter to our HIPC
policy. (Option three entails halting interim HIPC relief
and requiring the debtor to clear any arrears to the Paris
Club before interim relief can resume. In such a scenario,
the amounts collected would not be refunded.) Japan asked
whether creditors could, in certain circumstances, provide
less debt relief at completion point than what was
committed at decision point. (The answer from the
Secretariat was no.) The Secretariat took note that option

three was problematic for many creditors on a political
level and promised to revise the working paper, which
Germany and several other creditors criticized as overly
technical and difficult to understand, for discussion and
approval in March.

Methodological Discussion:
Countries Having no Relations with the IMF
and the Paris Club

19. (U) Creditors discussed the latest version of the
Secretariat's working paper on countries "away" from the

Club. Noting that the guidelines set forth in the working
paper were stricter than previous Paris Club
understandings, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, and Canada
asked that the working paper explicitly state that the
guidelines would not apply retroactively and that,
regardless of the status of the debtor country, creditors
were free to take bilateral measures to try to collect on
the debt.

20. (U) In response to a question from Germany, the
Secretariat confirmed that debt swaps were a type of debt

restructuring and therefore were covered by the guidelines
in the paper. Germany asked to revisit this issue at the
next meeting. Spain said that when assessing whether
bilateral negotiations should be authorized, the Paris Club
should consider the number of creditors and the amount of

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debt. Sweden added (and the Secretariat confirmed),
however, that the Paris Club's solidarity principle should
ensure that claims of large and small creditors are treated
equally. The UK suggested adding an additional guideline:
where bilateral negotiations are authorized, creditors
agree to keep the Paris Club informed. Japan requested
language to clarify that the proposed guidelines do not
apply to creditors' financial relations with countries that
are most unlikely to seek debt relief, such as South Korea.
The U.S. stressed that the key principle was that the Paris
Club should have a discussion before any creditor decides
to initiate bilateral negotiations. The Secretariat will
incorporate this feedback and issue a revised working

21. (U) In addition to asking how the Club would reach a
decision to maintain a multilateral dialogue with a debtor
(e.g., would it require a consensus, or would the size of
claims be factors?), Russia stated that it has begun an
active dialogue with Libya. Debts numbers have yet to be
reconciled, as Libya does not recognize Russian claims and
has put forth its own claims vis-a-vis Russia. Russia
expects negotiations in the near future.

22. (U) The U.S. informed the Club that Suriname had
recently cleared its ODA arrears and was seeking
cancellation of late interest on its non-ODA debt. The
U.S. asked whether any creditors had concluded bilateral
agreements with Suriname since the last Paris Club
discussion in April 2007. The Netherlands responded that
Suriname had recently paid off its ODA debt in full with no
restructuring. The Secretariat will add Suriname to the
March Paris Club agenda.

Methodological Discussion:
Relationships with China

23. (SBU) The Secretariat presented its revised working
paper on outreach to China and informed creditors that it
had contacted staff-level officials at China's Ministry of
Finance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Commerce,
and Exim Bank to request a technical meeting in Beijing to
discuss PC principles and functions. The preliminary
response at the staff level was favorable, but the Chinese
officials indicated political level approval is required
before agreeing to such a meeting. Noting the generally

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successful OECD outreach effort, PRC sensitivity to being
singled out, and the cost of time lost if China declines
this second PC invitation, Australia urged the Secretariat
to approach several emerging creditors simultaneously.
Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK supported this
broader outreach approach, with Germany suggesting that
Beijing-based embassy representatives participate in the
meeting. Japan encouraged the Secretariat to include
SINOSURE (China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation).
The Netherlands suggested PC creditors use high-level
contacts to convey the need for engagement. The
Secretariat believes a two-step approach might succeed: an

initial technical meeting with the Chinese at the staff
level aimed at building confidence, followed by a broader
outreach meeting, to which China and other non-Paris Club
official creditors would be invited. The Secretariat will
ask the Chinese whether they would prefer an initial
meeting with the Secretariat, or a broader meeting that
might include Paris Club country representatives. The
Secretariat also circulated a draft 60-slide Powerpoint

presentation for use in a meeting with the Chinese and
suggested the 2008 G-8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit might present
a good opportunity to raise creditor coordination.

Methodological Discussion:
Prescription of Paris Club Creditors' Claims

24. (U) The Secretariat asked whether creditors would be
interested in having the Secretariat conduct a survey of
how statutes of limitation in Paris Club countries impact
their debt collection efforts. The Netherlands said it
believed statutes of limitation do not apply to government-
to-government debts. Though it had requested the agenda
item, Switzerland requested more time to look into the
matter. Belgium said a survey would be an onerous
exercise, citing the need to analyze the domestic legal
regimes of all debtor countries in addition to that of the
creditor country. The Secretariat noted the lack of
enthusiasm for a survey, but said it would raise the
question again at the next Paris Club meeting.

--------------------------------------------- --
Methodological Discussion:
OECD Working Group on Export Credits Guarantees
--------------------------------------------- --

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25. (U) Italy and the Netherlands noted that the OECD
Working Party on Export Credits and Credit Guarantees had
reached agreement on a set of principles and guidelines to
promote sustainable lending from export credit agencies to
low-income countries. The principles are located on the
OECD website at An outreach meeting to non-
OECD members will be held on February 20. The IMF and
World Bank voiced strong support for the principles, noting
that the agreement demonstrated an understanding that
creditors also have a role to play in debt sustainability,
especially where the capacity for debt management is weak.
As non-OECD members, Russia said it would try to follow the
guidelines on an informal basis, and Brazil said its
government was reviewing the agreement.


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