WTO appoints France's Pascal Lamy as new chief

26th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

GENEVA, May 26 (AFP) - Former European Union trade chief Pascal Lamy of France was confirmed as the new head of the World Trade Organisation, the WTO said Thursday.

GENEVA, May 26 (AFP) - Former European Union trade chief Pascal Lamy of France was confirmed as the new head of the World Trade Organisation, the WTO said Thursday.  

The ruling General Council of the 148-member WTO gave formal approval to a decision made public earlier this month by a selection team at a meeting here, the organisation said in a statement.   

Lamy, who was not required to attend the session, is scheduled to take up his four-year mandate on September 1, when current WTO Director General Supachai Panitchpakdi of Thailand ends his term.  

The WTO, which sets the rules for global commerce, is largely steered by its members, using a sluggish system that Lamy once dismissed as "medieval".  

But the director general also plays an important role, prodding recalcitrant governments and helping build compromise in an effort to drive trade talks forward.  

"I am honoured that the WTO's 148 members have today decided to appoint me director general," Lamy said in a written statement.  

As trade relations between leading WTO members such as China, the United States and the EU grow increasingly bad-tempered, Lamy can expect a tough challenge.  

His key task will be to maintain momentum in the three months before  ministerial talks in Hong Kong in December, which are meant to cap the Doha Round of global trade negotiations.  

"I believe we have a crucial task ahead to complete the Doha development agenda round of trade talks, this will be my immediate first, second and third priority," Lamy said.  

The round, aimed primarily at liberalising global commerce in a manner that benefits poorer nations, has stumbled repeatedly since it was launched in 2001, mainly because of discord between rich and poor countries.  

But rich and poor found common ground in the leadership contest, which saw Lamy picked ahead of candidates from Brazil, Mauritius and Uruguay.  

The WTO director general is not elected but rather chosen by consensus, after soundings aimed at determining which candidate is the more acceptable to most members from the broadest geographical range.   

The 58-year-old Lamy, a French Socialist, is a fervent advocate of "controlled" globalisation.   

He has said he aims to build bridges between industrialised countries and the ever more influential developing nations in the WTO.  

Lamy campaigned for the WTO leadership as a friend of the poor, citing EU development policies he spearheaded from 1999 to 2004.  

As the EU's trade commissioner, Lamy sided with developing countries by fighting to reduce agricultural export subsidies, even though his stance drew criticism from his native France.  

But he also pushed the "Singapore issues" - further liberalisation of investments, public procurement and competition policy - angering developing countries during the WTO's ill-fated ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in 2003.  

His free-trade credentials, which pleased many in rich countries, mean he is widely disliked by the anti-globalisation movement.  

"As new Director General, Lamy must break with his tradition of serving primarily big business," said Alexandra Wandel, programme coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe, which says the WTO does too little to include environmental concerns in trade talks.



Subject: French News

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