News Analysis: Who could be next to lead WTO?

2013-01-15 14:39:28 GMT2013-01-15 22:39:28(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

GENEVA, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- As the contest to succeed current World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy gets underway, who will lead the global economic governance institution in the next four years becomes a big question.

Nine countries, including Ghana, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Kenya, Jordan, Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Brazil, put forth contestants to vie for the position during the nomination period in December 2012.

According to an unwritten rule in the trade organization, developed and developing countries take turns to land the top jobs and there is also a geographical factor.

The five WTO director generals so far, including Lamy whose term will end on August 31, were from Ireland, Italia, New Zealand, Thailand and France respectively.

So it is widely believed Lamy's successor should be from a developing country and that Latin America or Africa has the biggest chance to win.

Three candidates from Latin America have demonstrated their qualifications and capability through vast working experience in international economic and trade policy matters.

Costa Rica has nominated its foreign trade minister Anabel Gonzalez for the prestigious job. Gonzalez has worked as the director of the WTO Agriculture Division from 2006 to 2009.

Roberto Azevedo, Brazil's permanent representative to the WTO, has been put forward by his country. He was Brazil's chief litigator in many important disputes and participated in nearly all WTO ministerial conferences since the Doha Round began.

Mexico has nominated Herminio Blanco Mendoza, former minister for trade and industry, who led Mexico's participation in the Uruguay round of talks and the government's lobbying efforts for the approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the U.S. congress.

However, some observers claim that Mexico is a close ally of the U.S. on a list of trade and economic policy issues, which may not work in favor of Mendoza within his region.

As for African candidates, Ghana put forth its former trade minister John Kwadwo Kyerematen. He is the coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre of the UN Economic Commission for Africa and has received the backing of the African Union.

Another African competitor is Amina Mohamed, who is serving as United Nations Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Secretary-General of the Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Supachai Panitchpakdi will also end his second term on 31 Aug. this year. Rob Davies, South Africa Trade and Industry Minister, is also rumored to be contesting for the position.

Some analysts said it is unlikely Africa will get both the WTO and UNCTAD jobs in the same year.

The other four names in the hat are Mari Pangestu, Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy of Indonesia; Taeho Bark, Minister for Trade, Republic of Korea; Tim Groser, New Zealand Minister of Trade; and Ahmad Hindawi, former minister of industry and trade from Jordan.

All the nine candidates will be invited to meet with members at a formal General Council meeting, to be held on Jan. 29 where they will make brief presentations, including their vision for the WTO. In the final two months of the process, the General Council will proceed to narrow the field of candidates and ultimately to arrive at its choice for the replacement.

Whoever wins will be faced with a tough job such as reviving the deadlocked Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations and charting a way out of the global economic crisis with liberalization of trade.

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