Azevedo for WTO leadership
Geneva – Arabstoday
Brazil's Roberto Azevedo was poised Wednesday to be named head of the World Trade Organisation, as it struggles to find ways to revive stalled talks on liberalising global commerce and to help
develop poorer nations.
The WTO's 159 member nations were scheduled to be briefed Wednesday by the officials steering the race to replace Frenchman Pascal Lamy at the helm of the Geneva-based body.
Career diplomat Azevedo, who beat veteran Mexican trade negotiator Herminio Blanco in the final round of the contest, is the first official from the BRICS group of emerging economies to take the job, adding symbolism to his victory.
Azevedo has pledged to hit the ground running, recently telling AFP that he had the mettle to reboot the WTO.
"The multilateral trading system is weakened by a complete paralysis in the negotiations," he said, underlining that it was time to "unclog the system.”
Azevedo, aged 55, is an experienced negotiator and consensus-builder at the WTO, and his insider status appeared to have clinched the race.
He has been Brazil's WTO ambassador since 2008, after working as a chief litigator in high-profile trade disputes, making him well placed to navigate the system and try to clear the logjam in its "Doha Round" talks.
The negotiations, launched at a summit in Qatar in 2001, aim to reach a deal on opening markets and remove trade barriers such as subsidies, excessive taxes and regulations, in order to harness international commerce to develop poorer economies.
But the concessions needed have sparked clashes notably between China, the European Union, India and the United States.
Azevedo will need to build bridges fast if the WTO is to have any chance of success at its December summit in Bali.
On Tuesday, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff said the choice of Azevedo "is not a victory for Brazil, nor for a group of countries, but a victory for the World Trade Organisation."
"When it put forward its candidacy, Brazil made clear that, with his experience and commitment, Azevedo could steer the organisation in the direction of a more dynamic and just world economic order," she said.
As Brazil's litigator, Azevedo locked horns with the EU and the US over their subsidies for aircraft makers and cotton producers, although Brazil has also been accused of protectionism by trade partners.
He has said he will be his own man as WTO chief.
"I'm not going to be there defending Brazilian interests or anything of the kind, or Brazilian trade policy," he told AFP recently.
The WTO picks its leader by consensus, rather than an election.
Pakistan's ambassador Shahid Bashir, who chairs the WTO's ruling General Council, spent weeks with his counterparts from Canada and Sweden gauging countries' views on which of a record nine candidates was likely to muster the most support.
Those who stumbled in the first round in mid-April were from Kenya, Ghana, Jordan and Costa Rica, while Indonesia, South Korea and New Zealand exited the race in the second round at the end of that month.
While Mexico conceded defeat and Brazil hailed its victory after the candidates' campaign teams met with Bashir on Tuesday, the WTO has yet to make an official announcement.
Bashir was to address member states Wednesday, while a General Council session next week will need to give Azevedo formal approval.
Lamy, a former trade chief of the EU, steps down on September 1 after two four-year terms at the helm.