ARCHITECT of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Inflation
fighter. Senor Privatization. Now, Mexican President Carlos Salinas
de Gortari wants to add another title to his resume: chairman of
the World Trade Organization (WTO).
By law, the 46-year-old Harvard economist can't be reelected.
And he's too young and ambitious to retire when his term expires
Dec. 1. Taking over the helm of the WTO - a new, more powerful
organization that succeeds the General Agreement on Tariffs and
Trade (GATT) in January 1995 - would be a coup for Mr. Salinas.
"The WTO chair will be an extremely important post," says Paula
Stern, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute in
Washington. "He or she will be inaugurating a whole new chapter in
During GATT's transition stage, a strong leader could build the
WTO into the premier international trade regulatory body envisioned
some 50 years ago, says William Cline, a senior fellow at the
Institute for International Economics. "Salinas would be a superb
candidate," Mr. Cline says. "His political stature, combined with
his economic experience in international trade and development,
would bring a new dimension to the GATT job." But, he adds, "a
weak director would create an organization which falls short of its
Originally, the International Trade Organization was to be set
up alongside the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
But the US Congress vetoed it. Instead, GATT was created 47 years
ago on a "temporary" basis to oversee trade negotiations. The WTO
was finally established by the last round of negotiations, the
Uruaguay Round, which was completed in December.
The WTO will have more teeth in dispute resolution. And the
Uruguay Round agreement has expanded the trade regime to include
services and intellectual property rights. "We're seeing an
enormous expansion in responsibility and coverage of world trade,"
says David Woods, a spokesman for the GATT Secretariat in Geneva.
He estimates that the inclusion of services will double GATT's
volume of trade from the current level of about $3.5 trillion.
More countries are signing on to the trade regulatory regime. In
February 1993, GATT membership totaled 106. Now there are 123
member countries, with another 20 countries (including China)
expected to be admitted in the next year or two.
When trade disputes arise, member countries will no longer be
able to ignore GATT dispute panel rulings. …