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Canada is supporting Mexican central bank Governor Agustin Carstens in the race to become the new leader of the International Monetary Fund, though his rival from France is expected to come out on top.

In a joint statement with Australia issued Friday evening, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Canada believes Mr. Carstens, 53, is the best choice for the job, adding that the decision should be based on "merit and not nationality."

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, 55, interviewed for the job on Thursday and is largely expected to win the race, given the endorsements she has already won from several countries that hold key votes. Ms. Lagarde has garnered the support of European nations holding 31 per cent of the votes within the IMF, while also getting the backing of Indonesia, Egypt and other emerging nations.

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However, several countries including Canada and Australia are in favour of seeing the new IMF head come from an emerging economy such as Mexico, and have been pressing for Mr. Carstens in order to bring new perspective into the global financial organization.

"The international community is well served with two highly credible candidates for the position," said the joint statement from Mr. Jim Flaherty and Australian Finance Minister Wayne Swan.

"Agustin Carstens' previous experience in the IMF combined with his background as finance minister of Mexico and his current position as Governor of the Mexican central bank equip him very well to understand and address, on a collaborative and inclusive basis with IMF member countries, the challenges faced by the global economy."

In addition to Canada and Australia's endorsement, Mr. Carstens has the support of 12 Latin American nations. However, he has not been able to secure the backing of key South American countries such as Argentina and Brazil.

Under an informal arrangement in place for decades, a European has traditionally headed the IMF, while an American has led the World Bank. However, amid the euro zone crisis, some IMF members want to scale down Europe's influence within the group, while giving more say to countries such as China, Brazil and South Korea.

"It is important that the new IMF managing director be selected in an open and transparent process with the candidate chosen on the basis of merit and not nationality," the statement from Canada and Australia said. "This is consistent with the G20's commitments to reform our international financial institutions and is reflected in recent progress at giving greater representation in the IMF to emerging and developing economies."

Within the IMF, the United States has 17 per cent of the votes, but has not publicly endorsed a candidate. Proponents of Mr. Carstens say he represents a new vision for the IMF, while Ms. Lagarde's backers say she has withstood the challenges of the European financial crisis and has the experience to be a steadying force. The IMF expects to have a decision by June 30.

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Mr. Carstens and Ms. Lagarde are in the running to replace former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who has pleaded not guilty to allegations of attempted rape, sexual abuse and other charges in New York. The charges against the 62-year-old former French minister stem from an incident in May involving a housekeeper at a Manhattan hotel.

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