Magazine article New Internationalist

Robert B Zoellick [Worldbeaters]

Magazine article New Internationalist

Robert B Zoellick [Worldbeaters]

Article excerpt

ONE way or another you're going to be hearing a lot more about Robert Zoellick. Until recently the donnish-looking Harvard law graduate was the indefatigable US Trade Representative under US President George W Bush. Initially, there was speculation that Zoellick, a longtime Bush loyalist, would replace James Wolfensohn as President of the World Bank when his term ends this June.

But it's clear Bob Zoellick has his eye on a bigger prize. If you're a career diplomat, why not reach for the top?

That looks to be Zoellick's game plan. Instead of the World Bank he's opted for the State Department, having been kicked up the ladder in the post-election housekeeping of the new Bush administration. The 51-year-old Washington insider accepted the job as number two to Condoleezza Rice, the African-American woman chosen to fill the shoes of Colin Powell as Secretary of State.

Zoellick is a curious mix. An ambitious policy wonk with a towering intellect, he has an impressive resume, including degrees from Swarthmore and Harvard and a long stint with the administration of George the First. Zoellick was Deputy Chief of Staff at the White House from 1985-88, then was Deputy Chief of Staff at the Treasury Department in 1992-93 under James Baker and a key architect of US foreign policy for George W's dad. Later he spent four years as Executive Vice-President of Fannie Mae, the country's biggest mortgage provider. In 1997-98 he was Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval Academy.

He was handed the US Trade Representative portfolio by George W Bush in 2001 where he crusaded for free trade with an evangelical passion. Despite the zeal, Zoellick is no crude neocon. His blunt, intellectual style differs from hardline warmongers like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. The head of one US environmental NGO who crossed swords with Zoellick remarked: 'If you raised questions with some previous trade representatives, they'd disagree in a roundabout way; Zoellick will just tell you to buzz off.' Another ex-colleague called him 'the most impressive thinker of my time in government.' He was a lead negotiator in the NAFTA trade talks in the 1980s but according to the New York Times his biggest success was German reunification. 'He persuaded the Bush Administration [George H Bush] to embrace German unity despite qualms of allies and alarm in the former Soviet Union.'

Although the White House values his brain, Zoellick and George W are not good buddies. Instead of hunt'n', fish'n' and gallop'n' across the range his hobbies are reading, long-distance running and military history. On one trip to Africa he reportedly regaled his hosts with his knowledge of famous battles of the Boer War and the Zulu uprising. And in another meeting with Colombian trade negotiators he amazed the room with a mini-lecture on Latin American history and economics. When he helped run both George W Bush's election campaigns Zoellick was nicknamed 'the adding machine' by fellow campaigners for his number-crunching skills on key policy issues.

Zoellick may not be a neocon clone but he is a solid team player. He was one of the signatories to a prominent letter by the Project for a New American Century in 1998 calling for 'regime change' in Iraq. And he is a militant about using trade policy to pursue US foreign policy goals. 'The US seeks co-operation - or better - on foreign policy and security... Given that the US has international interests beyond trade, why not try to urge people to support our overall policies? …

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