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Nations elbow for influence in world finance organizations

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Geopolitics -- questions of nations' power, pride, and prestige -- is stirring up some of the world's major financial blocs. Both great and medium-size powers are jockeying for position and influence in institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and in less formal but powerful multinational groupings.

These organizations, through their influence on international finance, third-world development, world trade, and relative currency values, can have major effects on a nation's economic welfare. Some nations are feeling wrongfully excluded from the policymaking councils of the organizations.

Here are a few signs of the turmoil:

Canada and Italy want the Group of Five to be expanded to include them.

This informal group includes the United States, Japan, West Germany, the United Kingdom, and France. At a secret meeting in New York last September, the finance ministers and central bankers of these powerful industrial nations decided to intervene in the foreign-exchange markets to weaken the dollar.

Both Canada and Italy were affected by the decision and want to be part of the decisionmaking apparatus.

Australia and Spain would like to become affiliated with the Group of Ten.

The Group of Ten is another informal grouping of industrial nations that includes the Group of Five plus Canada, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Japan wants to play a larger role in the World Bank, thereby obtaining greater recognition of its status as the No. 2 economic power in the noncommunist world.

The Soviet Union is seeking observer status in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the Geneva-based institution which regulates world trade.

Each of the above moves reflects a desire by the respective governments to be in on the international economic action and be seen by citizens at home as a participant.

When Canada's Prime Minister Brian Mulroney met with President Reagan last month, he won a promise that the President would support his admission to the Group of Five.

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