The Paris Club (French: Club de Paris) is a group of officials from major creditor countries whose role is to find coordinated and sustainable solutions to the payment difficulties experienced by debtor countries. As debtor countries undertake reforms to stabilize and restore their macroeconomic and financial situation, Paris Club creditors provide an appropriate debt treatment. Paris Club creditors provide debt treatments to debtor countries in the form of rescheduling, which is debt relief by postponement or, in the case of concessional rescheduling, reduction in debt service obligations during a defined period (flow treatment) or as of a set date (stock treatment).
The Paris Club was created gradually from 1956, when the first negotiation between Argentina and its public creditors took place in Paris. The Paris Club treats public claims, that is to say, those due by governments of debtor countries and by the private sector, guaranteed by the public sector to Paris Club members. A similar process occurs for public debt held by private creditors in the London Club, which was organized in 1970 on the model of the Paris Club is an informal group of commercial banks meet to renegotiate the debt they hold on sovereign debtors.
Creditor countries meet ten times a year in Paris for Tour d'Horizon and negotiating sessions. To facilitate Paris Club operations, the French Treasury provides a small secretariat, and a senior official of the French Treasury is appointed chairman.
Since 1956, the Paris Club has signed 433 agreements with 90 different countries covering over US$583 billion.
There are currently 22 Permanent Members of the Paris Club:
Creditor delegations are generally led by a senior delegate from the Ministry of Finance.
Other official creditors can also participate in negotiation sessions or in monthly "Tours d'Horizon" discussions, subject to the agreement of permanent members and of the debtor country. When participating in Paris Club discussions, invited creditors act in good faith and abide by the practices described below. The following creditors have participated in some Paris Club agreements or Tours d'Horizon in an ad hoc manner: Abu Dhabi, Argentina, People's Bank of China, Kuwait, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey.
Observers are invited to attend the negotiating sessions of the Paris Club but they cannot participate in the negotiation itself, nor sign the agreement that formalizes the result of negotiation.
There are three categories of observers:
1) representatives of international institutions:
2) representatives of permanent members of the Paris Club which have no claims concerned by the debt treatment (for example creditors whose claims are covered by the de minimis provision) or that are not creditors of the debtor country concerned but nevertheless want to attend the negotiation meeting;
3) representatives of non Paris Club countries which have claims on the debtor country concerned but are not in a position to sign the Paris Club agreement as ad hoc participants, provided that permanent members and the debtor country agree on their attendance.
The Secretariat was established to prepare more effectively negotiating sessions. The Secretariat is composed of a dozen people from the Treasury of the French Ministry of Finance and Public Accounts.
The Secretariat's role is primarily to safeguard the common interests of creditor countries participating in the Club, and to facilitate the reaching of a consensus between them at each level of the discussions. To achieve this, the Secretariat prepares negotiating sessions according to a specific method.
In the early stages of discussions, the Secretariat analyses the debtor country's payment capacity and provides creditors with a first proposal for a treatment. This proposal is discussed by the creditors (whose positions during the negotiation are transcribed in the so-called "magic table"). The Secretariat is also responsible for drafting the minutes of negotiation.
The Secretariat also helps to ensure compliance with the various covenants contained in the minutes and maintains external relations with third States creditors and commercial banks, in particular to ensure the greatest possible respect of comparability clause treatment.
Since 1956, the Presidency of the Paris Club is ensured by the French Treasury.
The Chairperson of the Paris Club is Odile Renaud Basso, Director General of the French Treasury. The co-Chairman is the head of the Department of Multilateral Affairs and Development Treasury (Guillaume Chabert). The Vice-Chairman is the Deputy in charge of Multilateral Financial Affairs and Development at the Treasury (Cyril Rousseau). One of these three co-Chairmen must chair every meeting of the Paris Club.
In particular, during negotiation sessions, the Chairman of the Paris Club plays the role of intermediary between creditors, who elaborate debt treatment proposals, and the representative of the debtor country, usually the Minister of Finance. He is responsible for submitting to the debtor's delegation terms agreed upon by creditors. If the debtor - which is common - refuses the first offer of creditors, the actual negotiation begins, the Chairman acting as a shuttle between the debtor and creditors.
List of chairpersons Incomplete list:
• Solidarity: All members of the Paris Club agree to act as a group in their dealings with a given debtor country and be sensitive to the effect that the management of their particular claims may have on the claims of other members.
• Consensus: Paris Club decisions cannot be taken without a consensus among the participating creditor countries.
• Information sharing: The Paris Club is a unique information-sharing forum. Paris Club members regularly share views and information with each other on the situation of debtor countries, benefit from participation by the IMF and World Bank, and share data on their claims on a reciprocal basis. In order for discussions to remain productive, deliberations are kept confidential.
• Case by case: The Paris Club makes decisions on a case-by-case basis in order to tailor its action to each debtor country's individual situation. This principle was consolidated by the Evian Approach.
• Conditionality: The Paris Club only negotiates debt restructurings with debtor countries that: 1) need debt relief. Debtor countries are expected to provide a precise description of their economic and financial situation, 2) have implemented and are committed to implementing reforms to restore their economic and financial situation, and 3) have a demonstrated track record of implementing reforms under an IMF program. This means in practice that the country must have a current program supported by an appropriate arrangement with the IMF (Stand-By, Extended Fund Facility, Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, Policy Support Instrument). The level of the debt treatment is based on the financing gap identified in the IMF program. In the case of a flow treatment, the consolidation period coincides with the period when the IMF arrangement shows a need for debt relief. When the flow treatment extends over a long period of time (generally more than one year), the Paris Club agreement is divided into phases. The amounts falling due during the first phase are treated as soon as the agreement enters into force. Subsequent phases are implemented following completion of conditions mentioned in the Agreed Minutes, including non-accumulation of arrears and approval of the reviews of the IMF program.
• Comparability of treatment: A debtor country that signs an agreement with its Paris Club creditors should not accept from its non-Paris Club commercial and bilateral creditors terms of treatment of its debt less favorable to the debtor than those agreed with the Paris Club.
Paris Club creditor countries generally meet 10 times per year. Each session includes a one-day meeting called a “Tour d'Horizon” during which Paris Club creditors discuss debt situations of debtor countries, or methodological issues regarding the debt issues more broadly. The session may also include negotiation meetings with one or more debtor countries.
A debtor country is invited to a negotiation meeting with its Paris Club creditors when it has concluded an appropriate programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that demonstrates that the country is not able to meet its external debt obligations and thus needs a new payment arrangement with its external creditors (conditionality principle). Paris Club creditors link the debt restructuring to the IMF programme because the economic policy reforms are intended to restore a sound macroeconomic framework that will lower the probability of future financial difficulties.
The twenty permanent members of the Paris Club may participate in the negotiation meetings, as participating creditors if they have claims towards the invited debtor country, as observers if not. Other official bilateral creditors may be invited to attend negotiation meetings on an ad-hoc basis, subject to the agreement of permanent members and of the debtor country. Representatives of international institutions, notably the IMF, the World Bank and the relevant regional development bank also attend the meeting as observers. The debtor country is usually represented by the Minister of Finance. They generally lead a delegation comprising officials from the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank.
After a few words from the chairman to welcome everybody and to open the meeting, the official meeting begins with a statement by the minister of the debtor country, who presents in particular the requested debt treatment.
This statement is followed by statements by the IMF and the World Bank, and, if appropriate, by representatives of other international institutions.
The representatives of creditor countries may then request additional information or clarification from the minister regarding the situation in the debtor country.
After responding to any questions, the delegation of the debtor country then leaves the main room and stays in another room during the entire session.
Creditors then discuss among themselves a proposed debt treatment. Once creditors agree on a treatment, the chairman of the meeting will then present this proposed treatment to the delegation of the debtor country. If the debtor country disagrees and asks for amendments to the creditors' proposal, the chairman will then convey this request to the creditors, who discuss it and consider a new proposal. This process continues until a common agreement between creditors and the debtor country is reached.
Once an agreement is reached on the terms of the treatment, a document called the Agreed Minutes formalizes the accord in writing in French and in English. This agreement is drafted by the Paris Club Secretariat and then approved by the creditors and the debtor.
The delegation of the debtor country then returns to the main room and the Agreed Minutes are signed by the Chairman, the minister of the debtor country and the head of delegation of each participating creditor country.
A press release mutually agreed to by the creditors and the debtor country representatives is released for publication upon completion of the negotiation session.
On October 8, 2003, Paris Club members announced a new approach that would allow the Paris Club to provide debt cancellation to a broader group of countries. The new approach, named the “Evian Approach” introduces a new strategy for determining Paris Club debt relief levels that is more flexible and can provide debt cancellation to a greater number of countries than was available under prior Paris Club rules. Prior to the Evian Approach’s introduction, debt cancellation was restricted to countries eligible for IDA loans from the World Bank under Naples Terms or HIPC countries under Cologne terms. Many observers believe that strong U.S. support for Iraq debt relief was an impetus for the creation of the new approach.
Instead of using economic indicators to determine eligibility for debt relief, all potential debt relief cases are now divided into two groups: HIPC and non-HIPC countries. HIPC countries will continue to receive assistance under Cologne terms, which sanction up to 90% debt cancellation. Non-HIPC countries are assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Non-HIPC countries seeking debt relief first undergo an IMF debt sustainability analysis. This analysis determines whether the country suffers from a liquidity problem, a debt sustainability problem, or both. If the IMF determines that the country suffers from a temporary liquidity problem, its debts are rescheduled until a later date. If the country is also determined to suffer from debt sustainability problems, where it lacks the long-term resources to meet its debt obligations and the amount of debt adversely affects its future ability to pay, the country is eligible for debt cancellation.
The great difficulties of some developing countries to break the cycle of debt led creditor countries of the Paris Club to adopt more ambitious policies.
In October 1988, creditors decided to implement a new treatment for the debt of the poorest countries. This new treatment called " Toronto terms " implements for the first time a reduction of the stock of debt of poor countries. The level of reduction was defined as 33.33%. 20 countries benefited from Toronto terms between 1988 and 1991.
In December 1991, creditors decided to increase the level of cancellation of 33.33% as defined in Toronto, to 50% under the "London terms". These agreements benefited to 23 countries.
Going even further, in December 1994, creditors decided to implement a new treatment called "Naples terms", which can be implemented on a case by case basis. Thus, for the poorest and most indebted countries, the level of cancellation of eligible credit is increased to 50% or even 67% (as of September 1999, all treatments carry a 67% debt reduction). In addition, stock of treatments can be applied in each case for countries that have complied satisfactorily previous commitments. Up to 2008, 35 of 39 countries have reached the completion point of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries HIPCs.
Finally, in September 1996, the joint proposal of the Development Committee of the World Bank and the IMF Interim Committee, the international financial community has recognized that the debt situation of a number of very poor countries, of which three quarters are located in sub-Saharan Africa remained extremely difficult, even after having used traditional mechanisms. A group of 39 countries, were identified as being potentially eligible for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries HIPCs.
Since the start of the HIPC initiative, debt relief granted to the 36 post-decision point countries at end-2011 amounts to almost 35 percent of these countries’ 2010 GDP, around USD 128 Bn in nominal terms. The total debt relief effort provided under the HIPC initiative is shared by multilateral creditors (44.5%), the Paris Club (36.3%), non-Paris Club bilateral creditors (13.1%) and private creditors (6.1%). Hence, the HIPC initiative represents a genuine and significant financial effort from Paris Club member countries, especially considering that they indirectly contribute to debt relief granted by multilateral creditors, as they are major shareholders of these international financial institutions.
According to the IMF and the World Bank, debt relief granted since the beginning of the HIPC Initiative reduced beneficiary countries’ debt burden by about 90 percent relative to pre-decision point levels. Debt relief has also allowed beneficiary countries to reduce their debt service and to increase social spending. According to the IMF and the World Bank, for the 36 post-decision point countries, poverty reducing spending increased by more than 3 percentage points of GDP, on average, between 2001 and 2010, while debt service payments declined by a similar amount. Such progress is consistent with the HIPC initiative’ objective, namely, to reallocate the increased spending capacity towards the fight against poverty and to accelerate progress toward the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
Apart from the HIPC initiative, the Paris Club adopted a new framework for debt restructuring in 2003, the Evian approach. Through the Evian framework, the Paris Club’s goal is to take into account debt sustainability considerations, to adapt its response to the financial situation of debtor countries, and to contribute to current efforts to ensure an orderly, timely and predictable resolution of economic and financial crises. The approach aims at providing a tailored response to debtor countries’ payment difficulties. Countries with unsustainable debt may be granted a comprehensive debt treatment, provided that they are committed to policies that will secure an exit from the Paris Club process, in the framework of their IMF arrangements.
The Paris Forum is an annual event, jointly organized by the Paris Club and the rotating Presidency of the G20, since 2013. The conference gathers representatives from creditor and debtor countries, and is a forum for frank and open debate on the global evolutions in terms of sovereign financing and on the prevention and resolution of sovereign debt crises. As international financial markets and capital flows are increasingly integrated, non-Paris Club official bilateral creditors are representing a larger share in the financing of developing and emerging countries. The objective of the Forum, in this context, is to foster close and regular dialogue between stakeholders, in order to create an international financial environment favorable to sustainable growth in developing countries. In particular, the Paris Forum aims at enhancing the involvement of emerging countries, be they creditors or debtors, in international debates on sovereign financing, in order to make discussions as open and frank as possible. The Paris Forum annually gathers more than thirty representatives from sovereign creditors and debtors, of which the members of the G20, the members of the Paris Club, and countries from the different regions of the world.
2013 Paris Forum The first edition of the Paris Forum was held on October 29, 2013 in Paris, and was jointly organized by the Paris Club and the Russian Presidency of the G20. The closing remarks were made by Ms. Christine Lagarde, Managing director of the IMF.
2014 Paris Forum The second edition of the Paris Forum was held on November 20, 2014 in Paris, and was jointly organized by the Paris Club and the Australian Presidency of the G20. Closing remarks were made by M. Angel Gurria, Secretary General of the OECD.
2015 Paris Forum The third edition of the Paris Forum was held on November 20, 2015 in Paris, and was jointly organized by the Paris Club and the Turkish Presidency of the G20.
2016 Paris Forum The fourth edition of the Paris Forum was held on November 29, 2016 in Paris, and was organized by the Paris Club.
The Paris club has played a role in debt crisis resolution for a period greater than 50 years, in emerging and developing countries. The rules and principles that are established for negotiations of different types of debt treatments have proven to be highly efficient towards resolving of various debt crises. Pragmatism and flexibility are important features in the past activity of the Paris club, with the decisions of the group influenced primarily by and technical criteria, although sometimes also by political criteria.
The Paris Club granted in November 2004 a cancellation of 80% of the stock of debt owed by Iraq, cancelling nearly 30 billion of dollars of claims, also granting a moratorium payment until 2008. In February 2006, the United States announced a relief Afghanistan's debt of 108 million of dollars.
In 2005, after the tsunami which affected the countries bordering the Indian Ocean, the Paris Club decided to temporarily suspend some of repayments of affected countries. In January 2010, the Paris Club also cancelled Haiti's debt to help it overcome the consequences of the earthquake of 12 January.
Russia had, in May 2005, begun to repay its debt to Paris Club countries. On 21 August 2006, Russia repaid the remainder of its debt to the Paris Club. Gabon and Jordan both bought their debt back, in 2007, at market value.
There are many other contributions of Paris Club which are deemed notable. The recent deal with the creditors of the Paris Club and the Argentinian Government on 28 and 29 May 2014, is a landmark deal, where an arrangement was made to clear the debt in the arrears which are due to the creditors of the Paris Club in a span of 5 years. The deal covers some amount of 9.7 billion of dollars of debts by 30 April 2014. Additionally, there is flexible structure to get the arrears cleared with a minimum of 1,150 million of dollars by May 2015, with the payment due to be paid by May 2016. The debt accumulated for Argentina is due to the 2001-02 Argentinian default crises, where there is default amount of 132 billion of dollars.
Critics argue that the Paris Club is not transparent. In 2006, a significant number of non-governmental organizations have requested the change of rules of the Paris Club, especially for transparency.
The Paris Club created a new website in 2009 which reiterated the terms of all treatment given to 90 debtor countries. Since 2008, the Paris Club has published an annual report[permanent dead link]. The report includes detailed data on claims that its members hold on foreign states. The total amount of debt to the Paris Club at end 2013[permanent dead link], excluding late interest, amounted to $373.1 billion. This amount included $165.8 billion of ODA debts and $207.3 billion in non-ODA debts.