GENEVA — Former European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy has emerged as the front-runner for World Trade Organization director general after a second round of polling.

The Mauritian candidate, Jayen Cuttaree, who as his country’s foreign affairs and trade minister last year was instrumental in the campaign to extend quotas on apparel and textiles, withdrew after coming in third.

The final round of polling is to begin May 9 between two candidates, Lamy and the former ambassador of Uruguay, Carlos Perez del Castillo.

“Pascal Lamy 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 chairwoman of the group’s ruling general council, told a closed-door session, according to a copy of her prepared remarks.

The winner of the next round of polling will succeed Supachai Panitchpakdi.

Uruguay’s ambassador, Guillermo Vallas Galmes, said Cuttaree threw his support to del Castillo — another developing-world candidate. Major trading powers, including China and India, are expected to lobby for Castillo.

However, people familiar with the situation said it is unlikely the final poll will come down to rich countries versus the developing world because both candidates have broad levels of support.

Despite the exit of Cuttaree, impoverished African countries remained on the offensive in the global talks over the cotton subsidies issue. During a session of the WTO’s cotton talks on Friday, Rwanda, speaking on behalf of the African group of nations, urged a radical overhaul of global trade in cotton by July.

One of the group’s key goals is duty-free treatment of all cotton products exported by the world’s least-developed countries. It also is seeking the abolition of all cotton subsidies, with export subsidies scrapped by July 1 and all other supports eliminated by Sept. 21.

African countries, as well as Cuba, supported the proposal in full, while Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina and China were broadly in favor, said a WTO official with knowledge of the talks.

The U.S., backed by Canada, said it was committed to dealing with the cotton problems, but wants to resolve them in the broader context of overall agricultural trade reform, the official said.

This story first appeared in the May 2, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Differences between rich and poor countries over cotton contributed to the collapse of the Cancún, Mexico, trade summit in September 2003.

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