S. Africa says WTO chief pick marks 'new beginning'

8th May 2013, Comments 0 comments

The appointment of a Brazilian diplomat to head the World Trade Organization prefigures a fresh start for the beleaguered body, South Africa's trade minister told AFP Wednesday.

Hailing the imminent appointment of Roberto Azevedo to head of the 159 member grouping, minister Rob Davies said the path is now open for "a new beginning in the WTO."

"We are delighted, we think that he is going to bring some important qualities, they include the fact that he is someone who is extremely knowledgable, very articulate, very technically sound."

"He will also bring in a sensitivity to the majority of the membership and the developing countries."

Fifty-five-year-old Azevedo takes the helm of an organisation still trying to find its way after the 2008 collapse of the Doha -- development focused -- round of talks.

Current rules underpinning global trade date from 1994, a decade before the iPad was conceived and when China's economy was 15 times smaller than it is today.

Davies admitted the path ahead would be tough, but expressed confidence in Azevedo.

"The issues are much bigger than whoever is incumbant as director general, they have got to do with some very very real questions about relations between different economies, changes in the world economy, the impact of the crisis."

"All those matters are not going to go away, and it's going to be difficult terrain for anybody who was going to be in charge."

"But of the potential candidates who could steer us toward a new beginning and try to revive a process that is loyal to the Doha mandate... we have full confidence in Mr Azevedo's capacity."

South Africa had initially backed Ghanian Alan Kyerematen, the African Union's candidate to take up the post.

When Kyerematen was eliminated in the first round of deliberations, Davies said South Africa began "actively canvasing" for Azevedo.

"It was time for someone from the developing world, and particularly for someone from one of the continents that has not had an opportunity to lead the organisation -- Latin America and Africa," Davies said.

Azevedo replaces former EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy.

© 2013 AFP

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