Lagarde cuts Asian trip short to attend euro meeting on Greece

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde is cutting short a trip to Southeast Asia to attend a meeting of euro-area finance ministers on Greece next week.

Lagarde “will participate in a eurogroup meeting on Nov. 20, as she usually does,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters in Manila Thursday. “That will mean shortening her current trip to Asia.”

Finance officials from the 17 euro countries are seeking agreement on how to cut Greece’s debt to sustainable levels, a necessary step to disburse the next tranche under a bailout they co-fund with the IMF. A disagreement on the speed of reaching the debt-reduction targets broke out this week, raising questions on whether the IMF will keep financing Greece.

Lagarde will skip a visit to Cambodia, where she was due to arrive Nov. 17. She was planning to attend the Nov. 20 East Asia Summit where she was going to join leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other countries, including U.S. President Barack Obama. IMF Deputy Managing Director Naoyuki Shinohara will represent the fund there.

At a press conference after a Nov. 12 meeting, Lagarde took issue with the ministers’ decision to postpone the goal of getting Greece’s debt down to a “sustainable” level of 120 percent of gross domestic product by two years to 2022.

“From the IMF’s perspective, we expect a real fix, not a quick fix and that means clearly a debt that is sustainable as quickly as possible,” she told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, when asked about Greece Wednesday. [Bloomberg]