France's Finance Chief to Play Key Summit Role

French finance minister takes center stage at G20 summit
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 14, 2008 7:38 AM CST
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and Finance Minister Christine Lagarde attend a meeting with local entrepreneurs in Annecy, French Alps, Thursday Oct. 23, 2008.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – This weekend's emergency G20 summit will bring together world leaders with very different ideas of how to fix the global economy. But while heads of state and government talk in front of the cameras, one woman will be key in building a consensus: Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister. After years in Chicago at the top of a major law firm, Lagarde brings an American-style candor to the rarefied world of European diplomacy.

With her fluent English and championing of free trade and the private sector, Lagarde has been tagged with the epithet "the American" even more than her boss, French president Nicolas Sarkozy. With the Washington delegation led by lame ducks, France is pushing hard for much tougher regulation. And her male colleagues admit that being the only woman in the room has given her an advantage; as the billionaire Lakshmi Mittal said, "She has been able to break the mold."