By  on December 13, 2004

GENEVA — The race to appoint a new director-general to head the World Trade Organization intensified Friday with France formally nominating former European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy.

Lamy, 57, would succeed Supachai Panitchpakdi, whose term expires on Aug. 31.

In July, Lamy, who has a close working relationship with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, played a prominent role in putting together a package to jump-start the stalled Doha round of trade talks. His five-year term as EU trade commissioner ended last month.

He joins a growing field of candidates. Also on Friday, Brazil put forward its WTO ambassador, Luiz Felipe de Seixas Correa, to head the 148-country organization.

Jayen Cuttaree, foreign affairs and trade minister of Mauritius, and Carlos Perez del Castillo, former Uruguayan ambassador to the WTO and former chairman of its ruling general council, are also seeking the job.

Cuttaree was instrumental this year in the push by poor textile exporting countries to get the WTO to focus on the likely dire post-quota implications.

A senior East African diplomat said Kenyan Trade Minister Mukhisa Kituyi will soon join the contest.

WTO member nations have until Dec. 31 to nominate a national for the world’s top trade post. The group then has until May to agree on its new chief.

The WTO traditionally has chosen its leader by consensus. However, if talks fail to result in a new director, the group’s bylaws allow for an election, with the position going to the candidate chosen by the majority.

With the Doha talks back on track, senior WTO trade diplomats hope they can avoid a repeat of bitterly fought contests that divided the membership.

In 1999, differences over the U.S.-backed candidate, former New Zealand Prime Minister Mike Moore, and former Thai Deputy Prime Minister Supachai, who was backed by Japan and other Asian countries, led to friction that eventually contributed to the dramatic collapse of the Seattle summit.

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