Race for WTO chief puts spotlight on aid vs. trade

Roberto Carvalho de AzevêdoDeveloping country leaders have long pushed for changes to global trade that would make them less reliant on foreign aid, and now the prospect of winning the top job at the World Trade Organization may add fuel to the fire. Nominations for the job of WTO director-general were due Dec. 31, and six of the nine individuals hail from the developing world. Alan John Kwadwo Kyerematen from Ghana, Elka Pangetsu from Indonesia, Ahmad Thougan Hindawi from Jordan, Herminio Blanco Mendoza from Mexico have served as trade ministers. Kenya nominee Amina Mohamed is the U.N. secretary-general special adviser on post-2015 development planning; Carvalho de Azevêdo is Brazil’s permanent representative to WTO. Rounding out the list of nominees are Anabel González from Costa Rica, Tim Groser from New Zealand and Taeho Bark from South Korea. Developing countries continue to suffer from trade barriers erected by Europe, the United States and other industrialized countries, and so it’s little wonder that Indonesia, for instance, has expressed hope Pangetsu’s nomination will “bridge the interest of developing countries and developed countries in WTO,” as presidential spokesman Teuku Faizasyah told Straits Times. This would not be the first time someone from the developing country would head the global body, which has been largely criticized for failing to close a deal as part of the Doha negotiations that started in 2001. Among the negotiations’ main objectives is to lower trade barriers, which would boost export opportunities for the developing countries and a chance to cut their dependence on foreign aid. Supachai Panitchpakdi from Thailand headed WTO from 2002 to 2005. There’s a danger, however, developing countries will fail to unite behind a single candidate, given plethora of nominations. Candidates are expected to present their “vision” for the organization on Jan. 29 at the WTO headquarters in Geneva. The organization is expected to announce its new director-general in May, 3 months before Pascal Lamy’s term expires in August. Whether controversial schemes such as aid-for-trade will be raised in those proceedings remains to be seen. (source: Jenny Lei Ravelo – DEVEX – 09/01/2013) 


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One Response to Race for WTO chief puts spotlight on aid vs. trade

  1. For eight years, Pascal Lamy has kept a staid, European hand on the World Trade Organization, guiding it beyond the convulsive era of anti-globalization protests even if he was unable to make much headway on the stalled Doha round of global trade talks. But the impending end of the Frenchman’s tenure has touched off a worldwide scramble to replace him, threatening to stress an institution that thrives on consensus and pitting the interests of the United States and other developed countries against those of the developing world. The WTO director general doesn’t have the influence over loans and investments that the president of the World Bank enjoys, or the financial clout of the International Monetary Fund’s managing director. But neither does the role have any “gentleman’s agreement” that doles out the position to a European or an American. Among the WTO’s 157 members, it is a one-nation, one-vote free-for-all, and with the growing influence of countries like Brazil and China in the global economy, the lobbying for the job is expected to be intense. Nine nations nominated candidates before the Dec. 31 deadline — more than twice the number in competition when Lamy took over in 2005. Seven are from developing countries — trade ministers, ambassadors and current and former officials — one is from South Korea, and another is from New Zealand. That guarantees the new WTO head won’t come from the Western developed world. But beyond that, all bets are off. All the candidates “know this place, and none towers above the field,” said a Geneva-based trade official who discussed the race on condition of anonymity. Much is at stake.

    The Doha talks have been at the center of the WTO’s agenda for a decade. But the acknowledgment of a stalemate is now widespread — a sign itself of tension between the developed and developing world over basic policy questions — and the number of alternate trade and economic debates within the organization is growing.

    The United States and a group of 19 nations are trying to negotiate a broad agreement to open their service sectors — a key interest of U.S. businesses. China’s rapid economic rise has triggered important discussions about how to classify a country as “developing” or an economy as “market-based.” Both definitions have real-world implications: Developing nations get more leeway under WTO rules to protect their local economy; China is fighting to shed its “non-market economy” designation so it is not so easily slapped with anti-dumping penalties. Other countries have pushed the organization in new directions — in Brazil’s case, arguing that WTO-sanctioned penalties should be used to punish nations that distort exchange rates to gain a trade advantage. The proposal grew out of Brazil’s worry about China as well as its anger over U.S. Federal Reserve policies that Brazilian officials say cheapened the dollar at the expense of other currencies. Brazil has nominated its current WTO ambassador, Roberto Carvalho de Azevedo, to lead the organization. In a news conference Thursday, he said he wants the organization to look for ways to confront the trade effects of national exchange-rate policies (…..)



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