EU supports Latin American candidates for WTO top job – report

SAO PAULO–The European Union threw its support this week behind Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo and Mexico’s Herminio Blanco to take over as head of the World Trade Organization after Director General Pascal Lamy steps down later this year, U.K. Business Secretary Vince Cable said Wednesday.

Azevedo, the current Brazil representative at the WTO, “was one of two nominees put forward by the European Union and we all supported that consensus,” Cable said in an interview. Blanco, a former Mexican finance minister, was the other candidate who received support from the EU.

Cable said that the main challenge for the incoming WTO director will be to revive the Doha round of talks, which were started more than a decade ago but have since stalled. The Doha round was originally meant to be a sweeping, all-or-nothing agreement to liberalize trade among the WTO’s 159 members, but with progress at an impasse for years, officials in late 2011 began pushing for lighter packages focusing on trade facilitation, agriculture and development.

The stalled talks create “quite a dangerous situation” in which countries revert to protectionism and bilateral talks, Mr. Cable said. That could be a recipe for disaster, he said, noting that similar problems plagued the global economy between the two world wars of the last century.

Asked if a nominee from a developing economy in Latin America could help move forward talks stalled by disagreement between developed economies and the developing world,Cable said that Blanco and Azevedo “are exceptionally capable and experienced people and that was the basis on which they were chosen.”

However, he recognized that “Latin America acts as a bridge to the developing world” and could help ease tensions between the camps.

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