Brazilian becomes new head of global trade organization

Updated: 2013-05-09 02:04

By Ding Qingfen (China Daily)

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Roberto Azevedo, Brazil's ambassador to the World Trade Organization since 2008, has won the race to become the next director-general of the global trade body.

He is the first representative from the BRICS nations - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - to hold the post since the WTO was formed in 1995.

Brazilian becomes new head of global trade organization

Roberto Azevedo, the new head of the World Trade Organization.

Azevedo on Tuesday beat Herminio Blanco, Mexico's former trade minister, who was widely reported to be backed by the United States and European Union, in the final round of the contest to succeed France's Pascal Lamy, who is expected to step down on Aug 31.

Azevedo is the first Latin American to head the Geneva-based organization, a sign of the rising clout of emerging economies led by China in the WTO, where developed countries led by the US and EU have played a bigger role, according to Chinese trade officials and analysts.

But they warned that a big and tough job awaits Azevedo in reinvigorating the organization and advancing and consolidating the multinational trade system, with the Doha Round of talks stalled and trade protectionism increasing worldwide in recent years amid the European debt crisis.

The Doha Round of talks began in Doha, the Qatari capital, in Nov 2001 with the objective of lowering global trade barriers. They reached deadlock in 2011, due to divisions between developed and developing economies on major issues such as agriculture. Amid the European debt crisis, some developed countries have been chasing bilateral and regional trade deals instead, such as the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In a congratulatory letter to Azevedo, Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng said China expects the new head to bridge the gap between developing and developed economies, adding that China will continue to support him and the WTO in dealing with multilateral trade issues.

Coming from Brazil, an emerging market with the world's seventh-largest economy, Azevedo is committed to reinforcing the multilateral trade mechanism. He has said the WTO's priority should be to accelerate progress in the Doha Round of talks.

Zhang Xiangchen, director of the Commerce Ministry's Policy Research Department and China's former deputy representative to the WTO, said: "Azevedo's winning of the race sends a positive signal that multilateral trade talks will get a lift" from the current deadlock.

"His background of coming from an emerging economy means he will more easily feel sympathetic to concerns and opinions from developing economies, and that he will get involved in narrowing the gap between developed and developing economies and in bringing them to reach consensus on key global trade issues.

"Unfortunately, the developed economies have long dominated the WTO and played a bigger role."

In the Doha Round, Azevedo has been recommended as spokesman for some 20 emerging economies in the negotiations on agriculture.

He once said that if he became WTO head this would give him greater access to give the multilateral trade talks a fresh start.

In a video on the Brazilian Foreign Ministry website, Azevedo said, "Ambitious solutions are required for more trade liberalization, to eliminate major trade distortions, to use trade to bring development for all, but especially to the poorest countries."

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