Geneva Chapter

Campaign, without campaigning, is now on for WTO job

Geneva, 15 July -- The World Trade Organization formally launched Wednesday the process for choosing a Director-General to succeed current incumbent, Mr. Renato Ruggiero.

The General Council agreed Wednesday to procedures and deadlines suggested by Chairman Amb. John Weekes of Canada: the formal nomination process will start now, with a 1 October deadline for Member-states to propose candidates, an end November target to "identify" the successful candidate, and for his appointment in December.

Several names are already being mentioned in the corridors, and probably some more would emerge.

Among those being mentioned in the corridors are former Canadian Trade Minister and now his country's High Commissioner in London, Ron Mclaren (whose candidacy was in effect announced at the Council by Weekes), Brazilian foreign minister Felipe Luis Lampreia, Moroccan Trade Minister, Hassan Abouyoub, former New Zealand premier Michael Moore and the Thai deputy premier Supachai Panitchpakdi.

Weekes also said that since his own country-man is a candidate, his deputy in the mission would be handling his campaign, while himself was asking the Swiss ambassador, William Rossier, to conduct some consultations as a 'friend of the chair' and suggest appropriate procedures to ensure the selection process is free from any questions about its "integrity" and any conflict of interest.

While stressing the need to avoid "campaigning", Weekes also suggested that candidates could be asked to meet the General Council, and present their views and answer questions, to enable members to decide.

While the WTO is not part of the UN system, nevertheless in finally choosing the candidate, countries would keep in mind regional balances and over-representation of countries and regions as heads of agencies.

Though the Weekes statement suggested that there would be no "election campaigning" (as happened in the process leading to the Ruggiero selection), and candidates are to be chosen for their merit, it would be illusion to pretend this would in fact happen or that there would be no 'horse-trading' for other jobs at the WTO itself or anywhere else, and no manouvering by the powerful to get someone to head the organization and thus influence the mercantile negotiations on the way.

In theory at the WTO, all members are equal and can exercise a veto by withholding consensus. But as in other matters, it is an Orwellian world at the WTO where, as in his 'Animal Farm' some are more equal than others, and clearly the US and the EC will have a large say and influence, more so in view of the "informal consultation" (and thus non-transparent, even to members) processes involved.

And as in Orwell's 1984 there is plenty of 'doublespeak'.

The selection of Ruggiero was based on a compromise that his successor would not be from Europe. The EC at that time made clear that it would want to have a say at the management, meaning that if there is a non-European as head, there should be an European deputy. The United States also wants that its hold on a No. 2 post at the WTO, and thus the real influence should remain in its hands. Canada already heads the OECD, and with New Zealand, is (from the EC view) is an aggressive Cairns group member. (SUNS - Chakravarthi Raghavan)