While it is far too early to make firm predictions,there are some interesting angles to the latest battle for leadership of World Trade Organisation,(WTO). A decision on the next Director General is due by 31 May 2013 and the new Director-General takes office on 1st September,2013.
The WTO Director General (DG) is chosen by 159 members (on March 2,2013) of the organisation. Like all WTO decisions,the aim is to reach a consensus through a process of extensive consultations. There is also a fall-back voting procedure but this has never been resorted to despite failures with the consensus based system the most memorable one in 1999 when one term was split between Mike Moore (former Prime Minister of New Zealand) and Supachai Panitchpakdi from Thailand.
When France’s Pascal Lamy was first elected in 2005,the other candidates in the race were from Latin America (Uruguay and Brazil) and Africa (Mauritius). This time round,it is widely believed that it is now the turn of a candidate from either of these regions to lead the WTO Secretariat.
If one accepts the argument for geographical rotation of the DG post,the next question that comes to mind is whether Africa or Latin America will be able to rally behind a common strong candidate?
Given the difficult environment in which WTO is currently operating,it may surprise a few that the leadership battle this time could be a hotly contested one. The WTO needs a strong hand to guide it through the current impasse over the Doha Development Round and ensure that the organisation remains relevant in a rapidly changing global economy.
The new DG should,therefore,be someone with a clear vision in mind. It is not enough to simply have the right geographic credentials,say experts.
In this backdrop,it comes as no surprise that for the first time,three out of nine countries,including Brazil,Mexico and Costa Rica,have nominated candidates for the DG’s post.
The African Union (AU) has nominated Alan Kyerematen,former Trade Minister from Ghana,whose candidacy was endorsed by the AU Executive Council at its meeting in July 2012 in Addis Ababa.
BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) is still exploring its place in the global economic governance space. On trade issues there has been some evidence of cooperation among these countries,including the joint statement made at the G20 Trade Ministers meeting held in Mexico earlier this year,but BRICS has so far failed to reach an agreement on candidatures for international bodies.
The BRICS group missed the opportunity to jointly back candidates for the IMF Managing Director and World Bank President. At the last BRICS Summit in March 2012 in India,the Heads of State said that the successful candidate for the World Bank position should be selected through an open and merit-based process.
It could reasonably be expected that the group will follow a similar line on the WTO DG too,when its next summit takes place in Durban in March 2013.
However,amid all these biggies,there is one candidate from a small country Costa Rica which has fileded a woman candidate for the WTO top post. She is Anabel González,the country’s Minister of Foreign Trade.
In a presentation to the General Council of WTO,González said: “My involvement with this organisation included lead negotiating roles in the Uruguay and Doha Rounds,participation in several ministerial conferences,harnessing the WTOs dispute settlement machinery to defend my countrys interests,serving as director of a centrally important division of this house,and delivering trade-related capacity building all over the world”
She takes care to reiterate that her experience is not limited to the multilateral level.
“I have been actively involved in the negotiation,approval and implementation of a wide array of trade and investment agreements,with a broad and diversified portfolio of countries,big and small,developed and developing,in Costas Ricas neighborhood and beyond,” she adds.
As the battle heats up for the top post in the powerful global trade body,all eyes are on the hot seat will it throw up a dark horse this time round?