WTO going through critical moment: Azevedo

Updated: 2013-05-24 11:36


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RIO DE JANEIRO - The World Trade Organization (WTO)'s incoming Director General Roberto Azevedo on Thursday said that the organization is going through a critical moment.

"I take over the organization at a critical moment, with a completely paralyzed system," Azevedo, who is still officially Brazil's WTO ambassador, said in a public hearing in the Brazilian Senate's Foreign Relations Commission.

"Negotiations have been halted for about 20 years. So far, none of them has been completely successful. There is no more time to remain in this paralysis," he said.

The new WTO chief expressed concern that negotiations may start migrating outside the WTO's multilateral system, but said the increase in talks outside the organization is not necessarily a bad thing.

"The bilateral initiatives are not bad. But the system itself remains paralyzed, and there is a big disconnection between the rules and regulations," said Azevedo.

He pointed out that bilateral agreements may make things more difficult for smaller countries as well, since they tend not to participate in main agreements.

Meanwhile, Azevedo said Brazil's path in the multilateral system will be "long and hard," noting that the country has a big capacity for dialogue and globalized trade.

He added that the fact that Brazil is a big commodities producer should not pose as a limit to its potential in other areas.

"I do not see the slightest shame in being a commodities and agricultural products exporter. It would be shameful if the opposite happened. But Brazil has the capacity to be an exporter in several fields," Azevedo said.

Azevedo, 55, will take over as the WTO chief on Sept 1, replacing Pascal Lamy, who is stepping down after two consecutive terms.

He will be the first Latin American to lead the WTO, with the support of the BRICS bloc of emerging economies, Portuguese-speaking countries, as well as countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Azevedo has served as Brazil's permanent representative to the WTO since 2008. He was his country's chief negotiator in the Doha Development Round.