Outgoing Prime Minister John Key has been tipped as a potential candidate to head the International Monetary Fund, an appointment signed off by US President Barack Obama.

An article on MSC Newswire says Key's background in international finance would make him an ideal candidate to replace Christine Lagarde as the managing director of the IMF. Lagarde has been ordered to stand trial in France over what became known as the Tapie Affair.

"Mr Key has the required money market experience. He has run a country. He has backed President Obama's showpiece international thrusts, the TPPA, and the Paris Climate.

"He is known to be on personal terms with President Obama who will have the ultimate sign-off on the IMF leadership."

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It said a push was under way for a non-European to get the role.

Key was unaware of the speculation when contacted. He is yet to comment on whether he would consider the role, but has said he intended to remain living in New Zealand after stepping down as Prime Minister. He did expect to take up positions on boards, possibly internationally.

John Key met with IMF head Christine Lagarde in Beijing, China in April 2013.
John Key met with IMF head Christine Lagarde in Beijing, China in April 2013.

What is the IMF?

The IMF is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and is an organisation of 189 countries working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.

Current managing director Lagarde was put under formal investigation in 2014 for her role in an arbitration case during her time as French finance minister.

Lagarde, who has held the top role at the IMF since 2011, decided to allow an arbitration to end a dispute between Bernard Tapie, a businessman and supporter of then President Nicolas Sarkozy, and former state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais.

Tapie had sold his shares in adidas in 1993 and then sued Credit Lyonnaise for allegedly undervaluing the shares. Lagarde intervened in 2007 and ordered the dispute should go to binding arbitration after which Tapie was paid hundreds of millions in compensation. That was overturned by the Court of Appeal last year and Tapie ordered to pay back the money.

Lagarde was told she could stay on as head of the IMF, despite being charged with criminal negligence.