Search for New WTO Chief Commences; Four Candidates to Campaign through March

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Byline: Jeffrey Sparshott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The World Trade Organization today begins the search for a new chief, a politically charged process that in the past has pitted rich against poor countries and undermined global talks.

Four candidates from three continents have been nominated. France's Pascal Lamy, Mauritius' Jaya Krishna Cuttaree, Uruguay's Carlos Perez del Castillo, and Brazil's Luiz Felipe de Seixas Correa are scheduled to make brief presentations and answer questions from the WTO's 148 members today in Geneva.

The men will campaign for the position through the end of March. WTO members then will try to forge a consensus on their new leader before Sept. 1, when the current director general's term ends.

The last campaign, which ended in 1999, was bruising.

Developed and developing countries split over who should head the WTO, leaving the organization without a leader for a year and tainting efforts to start a new round of trade talks. A new trade initiative collapsed spectacularly in 1999 in Seattle, leaving the organization listing for two years.

"U.S. and foreign officials noted that WTO members' selection of a new director general ... had been lengthy and divisive. This experience left members without leadership during a good part of their preparations for Seattle and lingering hard feelings," the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in 2000.

Opposing sides compromised on the director general's post by splitting the four-year term into two, three-year appointments, giving the first part to New Zealand's Mike Moore, and the last to Thailand's Supachai Panitchpakdi - one term each for developed and developing nations.

WTO guidelines call for the new chief to be appointed for a renewable four-year term.

Mr. Supachai's successor will oversee an ambitious round of talks started in 2001 to lower trade barriers reduce government subsidies, and codify international copyright and patent rules. …