GENEVA — Pascal Lamy, the former European Union Trade Commissioner elected Friday to be director-general of the World Trade Organization, is viewed as a well-connected and respected statesman who may help bring the Doha round of global trade talks, aimed at helping developing nations, to a successful close.
The new U.S. Trade Representative, Rob Portman, and senior diplomats and international trade figures said Lamy, 58, a French economist, was the right man for the job.
The 148-member WTO, based here, sets the rules for most global trade in goods and services worth almost $11 trillion annually. The WTO’s members are slated to formally endorse Lamy during the next session of its ruling General Council on May 26-27. He would take over on Sept. 1. His term is four years.
In addition to reviving the four-year-old Doha round, Lamy will preside amid a rising debate over trade policies and benefits as wealthy and developing countries struggle to cope with globalization. As EU trade commissioner, he won several ruling at the WTO enforcing global trade rules, while also pushing for the EU to reduce agricultural subsidies, that aid poor countries.
Senior WTO diplomats said cotton and other agriculture issues could prove to be the most difficult for Lamy.
Lamy’s “experience and prominence in international trade will enable him to be a strong public advocate for the WTO as an institution and for open markets,” Portman said in a statement.
“His commitment and leadership will be essential to all our efforts for a successful Hong Kong Ministerial in December and for concluding an ambitious and far-reaching result to the global trade talks next year,” Portman said.
Francesco Marchi, director of economic affairs at the European Apparel & Textiles Manufacturers Association, said in a phone interview, “Lamy knows very well the textiles conundrum. I hope there will be a different approach to our problems.”
Lamy defeated Uruguay’s former WTO ambassador, Perez del Castillo, in three rounds of voting. In the latest round, Castillo had the support of China and other major developing countries, such as Brazil. A senior Chinese official said Beijing “respected the outcome.”
India, which in the earlier round had caucused for a developing country candidate, backed Lamy in the final and decisive poll. Ujal Singh Bhatia, India’s ambassador to the WTO, said Lamy was “best placed” to deliver results as soon as possible and noted that his country has a major stake in the multilateral trade system and the conclusion of the Doha round.
Incumbent WTO chief Supachai Panitchpakdi is to become head of the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development.
Lamy stepped down as the EU trade commissioner in November, after a five-year stint. Earlier, he was a senior executive at Credit Lyonnais, and was also chief of staff for EU president Jacques Delors from 1985 to 1994.
Toufiq Ali, Bangladesh’s WTO ambassador, said: “We hope Lamy will be able to provide a new direction to the WTO and provide a forum for countries of the [least developed countries] group to use trade as a development tool.”
Peter Sutherland, a former WTO director-general and chairman of Goldman Sachs International, said Lamy was “a first-rate appointment … He’s a person who has a clear ability to transcend any issue of nationality or region. His commitment to the multilateral process has been evident.”