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Cablegate: Paris Club - March 2008 Discussion of Policy And

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 13 PARIS 000633

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EEB/IFD/OMA
TREASURY FOR DO/IDD AND OUSED/IMF
SECDEF FOR USDP/DSCA
PASS EXIM FOR CLAIMS - MPAREDES
PASS USDA FOR CCC -- ALEUNG/WWILLER/JDOSTER PASS USAID FOR CLAIMS --
WFULLER
PASS DOD FOR DSCS -- PBERG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EFIN ECON OECD EAID FR
SUBJECT: PARIS CLUB - MARCH 2008 DISCUSSION OF POLICY AND
METHODOGICAL ISSUES

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) The Paris Club met on March 13 to discuss 16 countries and
other policy and methodological issues. Creditors reported on
contacts with the new Argentine government, which has been arguing
against an IMF agreement and for minimizing external payments in
seeking a Paris Club deal. The IMF's report on the DRC made clear
that HIPC Completion Point will not be reached this year. On Cuba,
creditors confirmed that they had not discussed medium- or long-term
debt with Cuba; many creditors that had restructured short-term debt
with Cuba now found that Cuba was in arrears yet again. Russia
announced the February signing of the bilateral agreement
implementing its 2004 commitment to provide Iraq debt relief, while
Brazil reported on contacts with Iraq's advisors. Liberia is on
track to receive Paris Club interim HIPC relief in April, while Togo
should receive a pre-HIPC debt treatment in May. The Club discussed
a French idea to provide a type of "debt moratorium" for countries
embarking upon Emergency Post Conflict Assistance (EPCA) programs.
Several creditors noted the proposal would erode the principal of
conditionality, while the U.S. and others raised possible legal
impediments.


Argentina
---------

2. (U) The IMF reported that there had been a February mission to
discuss the effects of global volatility on Argentina, and that they
continued to discuss inflation measurement issues. No date had been
set for an Article IV. The World Bank reported that it was looking
at a three-year program, likely to come to the Board at end-2008, of
about $1 billion/year. All of the proposed loans will be investment
lending. The Bank has made no adjustment loans to Argentina since
2003 (adjustment loans are generally for budget support and imply
some level of comfort with macroeconomic policy); the outstanding
portfolio is about $5 billion.

3. (SBU) Bilateral Contacts: The Secretariat/France, Germany,
Italy, the UK, and U.S. all reported on various bilateral meetings
with Argentine officials. They all reported holding to the Paris

PARIS 00000633 002 OF 013


Club position that there can be no restructuring without an IMF
agreement and that Argentina should resume payments. Argentine
officials, in turn, had stated to France that their priorities were
not to increase financing needs and not to challenge current
stability and economic performance. The GOA aims to maintain
reserves to guard against external shocks, and noted that there were
both legal and policy constraints against using reserves. The GOA
claimed it could not afford a voluntary settlement of arrears.
France had not found this an acceptable justification and reminded
the GOA of Club rules regarding conditionality. The Secretariat
will initiate a data call in order to assess GOA data received
recently. The Secretariat noted private banks regularly sued to
avoid expiration of the statute of limitations on holdout bondholder
claims.

4. (SBU) Germany reported GOA desire to resolve the issue in 2008;
but the Argentines were "not eager" to resume payments, and they
wanted better terms than the six-year schedule they had received
from Spain, e.g., eight years. Germany also reported that the GOA
had promised two items: statistical information, and a proposal by
the end of March, ahead of the IMF/IBRD Spring Meetings. Germany
had received a data presentation from Argentina (which the
Secretariat distributed to all creditors). The Argentines had also

SIPDIS
proposed an IMF-type program -- perhaps even put together with IMF
staff -- but issued instead by the Inter-American Development Bank
(IDB), an idea that both France and Germany told Argentina was a
non-starter.

5. (SBU) Finally, Italy reported no sign of an opening. For the
time being, Argentina was defensive, made no indication of a payment
as a goodwill measure, and claimed it could not afford to pay. The
GOA had again said that the holdout issue had been settled by law
and was not subject to reopening. Italy advocated insistence on a
goodwill gesture compatible with the GOA's financial situation.

6. (SBU) The Netherlands asked the Secretariat to use its contacts
to point out the need for payment as a goodwill gesture and to clear
arrears, and suggested that Club members should refuse to engage
until payments were resumed. The Secretariat disagreed, opining
that Argentina should be allowed to make a proposal. All creditors
agreed on the need for continued solidarity, and that the

PARIS 00000633 003 OF 013


Secretariat would prepare a new working paper before the Bank/Fund

SIPDIS
Spring Meetings, laying out a common message.

Congo (Brazzaville)
-------------------

7. (SBU) The IMF reported that the new staff-monitored program
(SMP) would be going to Management in mid-March and to the Board
probably in June. The program would require cuts in subsidies and
spending, and structural changes focused on public financial
management and transparency. A May mission would review performance
through March. The Bank reported that a recent HIPC progress
mission had found mixed results, and that the PRSP would come to the
Board by the end of July. The Fund also reported that Congo had
signed three agreements with China, two of which are disbursing.
The concessionality of one agreement --- for energy -- met PRGF
requirements; the IMF had granted a waiver for the other agreement,
which financed aircraft. There was also a 2006 framework agreement
on priority sectors, including roads, airports, health and water,
but it had not been activated; the IMF noted lack of clarity about
projects covered and financing modalities. Neither the Bank nor the
Fund had information about a recent agreement with litigating
creditors, reported in the press. The Secretariat noted that
reports had indicated that the agreement was above face value, and
will write to Congolese authorities to inquire.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
----------------------------------

8. (SBU) The Fund reported that the SMP was being extended for six
months with a focus on corrective measures in public financial
management, meaning that a PRGF could come no earlier than the
summer, and Completion Point no earlier than 2009. Given the track
record, this timetable is ambitious. November/December information
revealed institutional weaknesses and fiscal deterioration,
including unauthorized spending amounting to 2.5 percent of GDP.
The central bank is establishing a committee in an effort to halt
unauthorized expenditures. IMF staff will provide an update to the
Club on DRC ability to make payments during the first half of 2008.
A number of creditors expressed dismay at the delay, indicating that
they would have to reallocate funding that had been intended for

PARIS 00000633 004 OF 013


DRC's debt treatment. Expressing concerns about debt sustainability
and, more broadly, the impact of large PRC projects in Africa,
creditors appreciated the IMF's work with DRC authorities. The
Secretariat reported that the DRC had not responded to the

SIPDIS
Secretariat's October 2007 letter.

SIPDIS

Cote d'Ivoire
-------------

9. (U) The IMF reported higher than desired military spending and
delays in implementing reforms. Despite the mixed performance under
the previous EPCA, Cote d'Ivoire had requested a SDR 41 million
follow-up, planned for April 4 Board discussion, that will focus on
fiscal consolidation, cuts in non-priority spending, and investment
in social infrastructure. A Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP)
is under preparation, and Decision Point could come later this year.


10. (U) There had also been progress in normalizing relations with
creditors: Cote d'Ivoire was up-to-date with multilaterals and had
settled much of its domestic debt. World Bank and African
Development Bank (AfDB) arrears clearances were progressing, with
the World Bank planning an April 1 Board date. European Investment
Bank arrears clearance was also underway, and Cote d'Ivoire was
talking to London Club creditors.

11. (U) Paris Club creditors asked about litigating creditors. The
Secretariat replied that discussions were ongoing, noting that

SIPDIS
private creditors were "not in a litigating mood" and appeared
willing to provide HIPC-comparable treatment.

Cuba
----

12. (U) The Fund and Bank declined to report, on the grounds that
Cuba was not a member. The Secretariat noted that the last
discussions with Cuba (with a grouping of some creditors, not the
Paris Club) had taken place in 2001, and that the country had not
been discussed since November 2006. Creditors had agreed not to
discuss medium- and long-term (MLT) debt with Cuba, but were free to
seek agreements on short-term (ST) debt. All creditors indicated

PARIS 00000633 005 OF 013


that they had adhered to this understanding.

13. (SBU) Countries reported as follows:

o Canada: a July 2005 agreement on short-term debt arrears covered
C$13.5 million; there had remained a balance of arrears in
short-term exposure. Since then, a June 2007 agreement on ST
arrears covered C$30.4 million, which had all been paid or were to
be paid imminently. Canada's position was that there be no
discussion of MLT debt.

o Italy: there had been sporadic contacts, but no agreement on
short-term debt, though both sides had reconciled most of the debt.
ST claims were $76.1 million, of a total exposure of $290 million,
plus an additional $13 million in ODA.

o Netherlands: had agreed a new payment schedule in 2004, which had
gone off track. ST arrears were 19.7 million euros, principal not
yet due 31 million euros. MLT debt was 2.4 million euros, plus an
unspecified 1.1 million euro claim. No discussion of MLT debt.

o Japan: had reached an agreement in 2000. ST claim was 13.2
billion yen, which was being honored promptly. Not covered was 6.5
billion yen, which was not in arrears. Arrears on MLT had been
accruing since 1986, and totaled 154 yen billion as of March 2008.
Japan had also been approached recently on MLT debt, but had
declined to discuss it.

o Spain: A mission in July 2007 had begun reconciliation of debts,
a process which was close to completion. No ST negotiations had
begun.

o Russia: Indicated that it was the major creditor, with claims of
$25 billion as of early 2008. No progress had been made, even on
reconciliation.

o UK: had signed an MoU on ST debt in April 2003, totaling GBP 8.5
million. They had received three payments, but nothing since 2004.

o Austria: had signed a bilateral in April 2002 covering 6 million
euros, payments had been fairly regular, with the last due in

PARIS 00000633 006 OF 013


December 2009.

o Belgium: had signed an agreement rescheduling 12 million euros ST
over five years. Since then, there had been no arrears, though some
delays. There had been no request for discussion of MLT loans.

o Germany: Agreement in May 2000. No arrears, no problems.

o France: Short term debt totaled $110 million, plus an additional
4 million euro in guarantees that had not been called. Working on
an ST agreement that should be reached in the near future.

o Switzerland: had signed an MoU in 2005 on SF45 million, which
ends in August 2008. Has no MLT debt.

o U.S.: No discussions or agreement.

o Mexico: Italy and Spain reported that they had heard of a
Mexico-Cuba agreement; Spain had heard it was for $400 million.


Gabon
-----

14. (SBU) Japan had asked for Gabon to be placed on the agenda, and
it reported that Gabon had missed a 9.2 million yen payment on
January 31. Three million yen of this had since been paid, but the
rest remained outstanding. The U.S. reported that all arrears had
been cleared; a number of creditors indicated that payments were
frequently delayed or incorrect. Canada suggested that arrears to
all creditors should be cleared before creditors moved forward on
the buyback (a number have not yet implemented it), but the
Secretariat opined that there were no arrears, only payment errors

SIPDIS
or technical arrears, and that no linkage was possible at this
stage. Japan did not want repetition of this situation, in which
debt buybacks occur even as Gabon fails to make scheduled payments.
The Secretariat did agree to write to the Gabonese, which Japan
accepted.

Haiti
-----

PARIS 00000633 007 OF 013

15. (U) The IMF reported that the second review of the PRGF had
been completed, with one target missed and both spending and
revenues below program targets. Creditors agreed to allow the
second phase of Haiti's 2006 Paris Club agreement, conditioned on
completion of the second review, to enter into force. A donors
conference is set for April 25 in Port au Prince.

Iraq
----

16. (SBU) The U.S. had arranged with the Secretariat to have the
Iraq discussion while Brazil was present in view of Brazil's failure
to conclude a bilateral. The Secretariat pressed hard, noting that
Brazil was one of the countries that had received an official letter
from the Club, and asking what the problems were. The Brazilian
delegate reported that there had been an unofficial meeting in
Brazil with Iraq's advisors the previous week to discuss
reconciliation of figures, and there could be another meeting in
April or the beginning of May. The advisors had told Brazil that
there was a June 3 deadline. Brazil said it would reply to the
letter. The Secretariat reiterated the need to sign an agreement on
Paris Club-comparable terms.

17. (U) The Russian delegate reported on the belated signing of
Russia's bilateral. He agreed to provide a copy to the Secretariat,
as required by standard Club procedures. The Secretariat agreed to
share the bilateral with interested creditors.

18. (SBU) The Secretariat also indicated that it had met with
Tunisia, which had declared its claims, to explain comparable
treatment. Tunisia had begun discussions with Iraq. Algeria
confirmed that it had claims, but had not done so by the deadline
last year. The Secretariat had not yet met with Algeria to discuss
comparability of treatment. The Secretariat also agreed to send new
letters to Greece and Poland (which were not included in the most
recent batch since they had received letters two years prior). In
response to a question from the Netherlands on whether the
Secretariat had raised the issue with Greece and Portugal on the

SIPDIS
margins of EU meetings as agreed, the Secretariat replied that no
suitable meetings had taken place. Other EU members noted there

PARIS 00000633 008 OF 013


were EU meetings every day. The Secretariat promised to raise the
issue in the near future; if such an informal approach fails, the
Secretariat will send letters. The Secretariat promised an update

SIPDIS
on this issue before the next Paris Club meeting. Japan inquired
about China, noting that, at the January meeting, the Secretariat
had wanted a schedule its technical meeting with PRC officials
before sending a letter. The Secretariat reported that it was still
finalizing the meeting with the Chinese.

Jordan
------

19. (U) Creditors participating in the buyback were asked about
representation at the signing ceremony, and the Secretariat polled
them on a Jordanian request for a date change. (The date reverted
to the original March 30.) An IMF staff team was in Amman for
Article IV discussions.

Liberia
-------

20. (U) The Fund and Bank reported that their Boards were ready to
approve Decision Point, accompanied -- in the case of the Fund -- by
arrears clearance, restoration of voting rights, and the PRGF. The
Secretariat will formally invite Liberia to negotiate on April 17.

SIPDIS
A few questions were raised about arrears to small multilateral
creditors and about commercial debt negotiations. The IMF indicated
total private debt in nominal terms is believed to be below $2
billion, but because of lost or destroyed documentation, it is hard
to determine the total amount.

Mali
----

21. (U) The IMF reported that agreement had been reached on a
program, but that discussions had not been completed because some
data outcomes had differed from expectations. Discussions would
continue in late March. The IBRD reported on a new lending strategy
and IDA/IFC program, cited no specific problems with the IDA
portfolio, and noted some non-concessional borrowing from the
Islamic Development Bank for electricity generation. The

PARIS 00000633 009 OF 013


Netherlands reported growing arrears of 400,000 euros on a 4 million
euro loan, while France reported 15 million euros in arrears. As a
post-Completion Point HIPC, Mali has no formal relations with the
Club. The Secretariat, however, promised to send an informal
message to the authorities.

Serbia/Kosovo
-------------

22. (SBU) The Secretariat reported that Serbia was continuing to
pay the portions of debt notionally allocated to Kosovo. The IMF's
next visit to Serbia would be April 1. The World Bank indicated
that Serbia had deposited enough money to cover three years of
payments due to it, but excluding the putative Kosovar portion.
However, Serbia had indicated that it still intends to pay the
Kosovar share, which amounts to about $500 million of $2 billion.
Many creditors reported that they had not yet signed agreements on
the Serbia/Montenegro division of debt, although none raised
particular concerns. The Netherlands reiterated its use of the
debtor/guarantor, as opposed to final beneficiary, principle. On
February 26, the U.S. signed its bilateral agreement with
Montenegro. In a side conversation with the U.S., the Secretariat
indicated that it had not received original loan documentation from
Serbia, notwithstanding GOS assertions to the contrary.

Seychelles
----------

23. (SBU) The IMF said that the Article IV report had identified
severe vulnerabilities, including sharp increases in arrears and
debt ratios, and 27 percent inflation in January, but the
Seychellois authorities had indicated that they needed more time to
decide whether to seek a program. The Article IV had been delayed
by "delicate" discussions on the exchange rate section. The Bank
reported that a recent mission on debt management had found severe
weaknesses, which the authorities did not seem to comprehend. The
Secretariat reported a meeting with the Finance Minister, at which

SIPDIS
they had told him that a Fund program was necessary for Club
treatment, and they felt that the Seychelles would seek one. The
government has established a committee to look at new borrowing.
The UK had pressed the President to seek a program. [The U.S. is

PARIS 00000633 010 OF 013


not a creditor.]

Sudan
-----

24. (SBU) The Secretariat asked Japan about recent reports that it
had provided debt relief to Sudan. Japan explained, as it had
privately, that the forgiveness under discussion dated from a 1978
Trade Development Board multilateral commitment at UNCTAD, which
Japan understood most other Club creditors had delivered. Japan had
decided to use the visit of Presidential Assistant Marfa to raise it
as "simply a notification to deliver on a 1978 commitment." The
relief, amounting to Yen 3.2 billion had not yet been delivered and
was being tied to a number of prior actions, including efforts to
end the Darfur conflict.

Suriname
--------

25. (SBU) The IMF reported that growth was strong (6 percent in
2007, 7 percent projected for 2008) on the basis of commodity
exports, with a doubling of reserves. The next Article IV
discussion will be in May. The authorities had reported progress on
arrears, including with Spain and the U.S., and that the GOS planned
to negotiate with others. Brazil replied that it had in fact made
little progress even in arranging a meeting in May. The U.S.
reported the clearing of concessional debt arrears and the
Surinamese request for reduction of non-concessional debt that
remains in arrears. The Netherlands, in contrast, indicated that
Suriname had repaid 70 million euros -- the entire balance of the
GOS's outstanding ODA debt. The Secretariat stressed the importance
of implementing the recent Working Paper on countries that had no
relations with the Club, urging creditors to maintain a common
position, not to deal bilaterally, and not to conclude agreements
without reporting to the Club. Brazil requested a copy of the
Working Paper, and the Secretariat asked to be kept informed of
developments.

Togo
----


PARIS 00000633 011 OF 013


26. (U) The IMF requested financing assurances for Togo's upcoming
PRGF, scheduled for an early April Board date. The country's debt
ratios will likely qualify it for HIPC, and a preliminary document
could be ready in May or June, with Decision Point possible by
year-end. World Bank and AfDB arrears would have to be cleared; the
Bank reported that it would bring to its Board a plan to use an IDA
grant to cover all of the arrears, and that it understood that talks
with AfDB were well advanced. All creditors provided assurances
(The U.S. requested a de minimus clause, since debt is just $6,000.)
Negotiations are expected in May.

Vietnam
-------

27. (U) Germany had requested that Vietnam be placed on the agenda
and reported late payments. No other creditors reported late
payments. The IMF reported that there had been a review in October,
and that the main concern was overheating. The Bank reported that
Vietnam had been declared creditworthy for IBRD lending and would be
reclassified as a blend country, despite its low income level.

Methodological discussion:
Paris Club Treatment for Countries with EPCAs
---------------------------------------------

28. (SBU) Creditors discussed a Secretariat proposal to provide
treatment to IDA-only countries under Emergency Post Conflict
Arrangements (EPCAs), namely to defer all payments during the EPCA
period. The paper cited Iraq and Tsunami as precedents (Russia
helpfully noted the understanding that Iraq was not to be used as a
precedent for future Club action), and acknowledged departure from
the Club's principle of requiring conditionality. The response was
at best mixed, with numerous issues raised. Only France and Norway,
while recognizing there was moral hazard, supported the proposal as
written. Many, probably most, countries supported the principle,
however, and felt the Club should keep pace with other institutions'
efforts to lend support to fragile states. Sweden pointed out that
the Club was a creditors group, not a development entity, an
argument the Netherlands and Finland supported, and that this matter
involves political decisions. Several countries argued the Club
should await IMF deliberations on fragile states before acting. The

PARIS 00000633 012 OF 013


U.S. indicated that it might have more general legal and budgetary
constraints that could prevent it from participating.

29. (SBU) Japan argued that decisions should be made on a
case-by-case basis to avoid providing relief to serial EPCA
countries; the Secretariat and some others agreed. Italy asked what
advantages there would be for HIPCs, whose debts would eventually be
written off, and Belgium suggested inclusion of non-IDA countries.
The UK, supported by Italy, asked how comparable treatment would be
sought from other creditors, or whether it would be waived. The
U.S. asked why France/the
Secretariat saw this policy as necessary, since debts of EPCA

SIPDIS
countries had always been dealt with once the countries received
upper credit tranche programs, and few, if any, affected countries
would likely make payments during the EPCA. Spain's main concern
was lack of conditionality and negative incentive effect, and legal
issues for some creditors, and suggested linking treatment to a
later PRGF by cancelling it if the PRGF were not reached. The
Secretariat's reacted somewhat positively. The U.S. then made an

SIPDIS
alternative proposal, under which the Secretariat would send a
letter to EPCA countries, noting the Club's understanding that
arrears could continue to accumulate during the EPCA period and that
the Club could be willing to address them when an upper tranche
treatment were approved.

30. (SBU) Concluding the discussion, the Secretariat agreed to
revise its paper, taking into account the Fund's discussions and the
many comments made. It promised that the revised paper would be
less didactic, but opined that there would be a political imperative
for the Club to take some action.

Methodological discussion:
Relationships with China
------------------------

31. (U) The Chinese Ministry of Trade had indicated that it was
amenable to meeting with the Secretariat, although there had been no
response from the Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs. The
meeting with Trade Ministry officials would take place in Beijing,
probably at the end of March. The PRC prefers a technical meeting
only with the Secretariat; representatives from Club member

PARIS 00000633 013 OF 013


embassies would not be invited. At creditors' request, however, the
Secretariat agreed to provide a readout to missions in Beijing. (On

SIPDIS
March 21, the Secretariat informed us that the technical meeting
would take place on March 31; Embassy reps would be briefed on April
1.)

32. (U) A broader follow-up meeting could take place in Paris if
the Chinese agree; the meeting would be billed as a "seminar," and
other emerging market creditors would also be invited. The Chinese
have not responded to this proposal.

Methodological discussion:
Paris Club Annual Report
------------------------

33. (U) Creditors generally supported the Secretariat's plan for an
Annual Report, a draft of which the Secretariat plans to submit for
approval at the May Tour d'Horizon, for publication in June. Spain
and Germany offered to be examples for the section on bilateral
creditor efforts; others -- including the UK, U.S. and Japan --
suggested that the section be deleted, which the Secretariat agreed
to do for this first annual report.

Methodological discussion:
Comparability of treatment - follow-up
--------------------------------------

34. (U) Creditors approved the letters the Secretariat proposed to
send to debtors asking for information on their efforts to seek
comparable treatment from non-Club creditors. The Secretariat also
agreed to provide six-month updates on the results of these efforts.

STAPLETON

14

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