GENEVA — Former European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy took the lead in the race to be the next World Trade Organization director-general after the first round of polling Friday.

The Brazilian candidate, WTO ambassador Luiz Felipe de Seixas Correa, dropped out after coming in fourth.

Jayen Cuttaree, the foreign affairs and trade minister of Mauritius, who has championed special terms for poor countries adversely affected by the end of quotas, placed second. Carlos Perez del Castillo of Uruguay, a former WTO ambassador, finished third.

“The candidate from France enjoyed the highest level of support from members, both in terms of preferences and breadth of support,” Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s WTO ambassador and the chairman of the global body’s ruling General Council, told the closed-door session of ambassadors, according to copies of her prepared remarks.

Amina is running the polling, together with the ambassadors of Norway and Canada. On Friday, 142 of the WTO’s 148 members expressed their opinions on who should succeed Thailand’s Supachai Panitchpakdi as the head of the group, with six ambassadors abstaining.

In a meeting with reporters, Amina noted a small number of members expressed concern over Lamy’s ability to lead the organization, but declined to offer details on the level of support for each of the three remaining candidates.

Brazil’s foreign minister, Celso Amorim, said he accepted the withdrawal of his country’s candidate but complained the process was not transparent. Representatives of China, India and Pakistan also said they were displeased about the confidential process, which was agreed upon by WTO members in earlier meetings.

The next round of polling is set for April 25. WTO members have until the end of May to select a new director-general.

This story first appeared in the April 18, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.