Big Deals, Bad Odds; Pascal Lamy: The New Chief Is in a Race to Rescue the WTO from Irrelevance

By Miller, Karen Lowry | Newsweek International, December 26, 2005 | Go to article overview

Big Deals, Bad Odds; Pascal Lamy: The New Chief Is in a Race to Rescue the WTO from Irrelevance


Miller, Karen Lowry, Newsweek International


Byline: Karen Lowry Miller

Pascal Lamy says it is hard to overstate the complexity of big trade deals. Consider that in the Doha round of talks, 149 countries are addressing some 20 topics and must reach a deal by consensus. "You don't have to know game theory to see the odds that it would work are near zero," says Lamy, who took over as director-general of the World Trade Organization, the body overseeing these talks, on Sept. 1. Moreover, he has no authority to impose compromise on member states, now at loggerheads over the emotional issue of farm subsidies.

His main weapon is the Rolodex he assembled when he was European Union trade commissioner. Lamy says he does not hesitate to phone presidents when he thinks they should lean on their Trade ministers. It's a job he describes as equal parts "shepherd, referee, navigator, doctor and midwife," all performed behind the scenes. Next year is a big test: if he cannot resolve the impasse in the talks, the WTO itself will become "obsolete and impotent," says political scientist Jean-Pierre Lehmann.

Lamy crafted a draft declaration for the recent Hong Kong summit that merely summarized the debate, rather than trying to force a consensus, as predecessors had done. …

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