The World Trade Organization needs to complete the Doha Round of talks as the group of nations has to deliver on an unfulfilled promise that has been pending for more than a decade, Herminio Blanco, Mexico’s candidate for the organization’s top post, said.
“Unless you have solved in a substantive fashion the Doha development agenda, the table will be very empty for starting a new negotiation,” Blanco, 62, said in an interview at Bloomberg’s New York office yesterday. “So there’s no choice. The WTO has to keep moving and modernizing,” he said.
Blanco, a former minister of commerce and industrial development, is competing against eight contenders to succeed Director-General Pascal Lamy, whose term expires Aug. 31. This year’s field of candidates is the largest to ever compete for the position.
The Doha talks, which began in the Qatari capital in 2001, had three primary areas of negotiation -- agriculture, industrial goods and services. While discussions initially snagged over farm subsidies in rich nations, the U.S. and the EU have in recent years demanded that India, China and Brazil reduce tariffs on manufactured products.
When the Doha talks started, they were labeled as the Doha Development Round, Blanco said, and they “promised benefits in terms of access to markets to developing countries, especially to the least developed countries, so that promise is on the table. There’s something to be done about developing countries.”
‘Call for Action’
The WTO also faces pressures to deliver results from bilateral trade negotiations. The U.S. and the European Union recently announced trade talks that may be completed in two years. The announcement “is the most serious call for action in Geneva,” Blanco said referring to the Swiss city where the WTO is based.
“This agreement is about establishing a new paradigm of rules for trade, and it will make the rules of the WTO look more ancient,” Blanco said. The U.S. is also seeking to complete discussions for a Pacific-region accord as President Barack Obama tries to meet his goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014.
Costa Rica Trade Minister Anabel Gonzalez and Roberto Carvalho de Azevedo, Brazil’s ambassador to the WTO, join Blanco as this year’s candidates from Latin America.
The Geneva-based organization has had only one director- general from a developing country since its creation in 1995 and no woman has ever been a candidate for the post before this year, when three women are vying for the post.
“The main challenge and the next duty of the Director- General is lead the organization into becoming one that keeps being competitive,” said Blanco, who was Mexico’s chief negotiator for the North American Free Trade Agreement that was enacted in 1994.
Following France’s tenure, it may be time for a candidate from a developing region to head the WTO, Blanco said in an interview in Santiago Jan. 26.
Blanco, who has a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago, is the founder and president of the board of IQOM Inteligencia Comercial, a Mexican trade service company providing online analysis of trade measures in Latin America.
The other candidates are Indonesia’s Mari Pangestu, South Korean Trade Minister Bark Tae-Ho, Jordan’s Ahmad Thougan Hindawi, Kenya’s Amina Mohamed, Ghana’s Alan John Kwadwo and New Zealand’s Tim Groser. The organization’s General Council is expected to complete the selection process no later than May 31, according to the WTO website.
Blanco expressed confidence that WTO members can unlock the Doha Round negotiations through flexibility. “I think larger developed countries have to be flexible, but I also mean large developing countries, emerging economies. Everybody has to be flexible.”
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