MEPs to hear all WTO Candidates, despite backing Lamy

16.03.05 @ 17:39

  1. By Filipe Rufino

BRUSSELS - The European Parliament's Trade Committee on Tuesday (15 MArch) held a hearing with the candidate for the WTO's top job Carlos Pérez del Castillo.

The Uruguayan veteran negotiator, claimed to be the candidate the organisation needs.

"I sincerely believe I am the consensus character the WTO needs", said Mr Castillo, stressing that only he has "a track record of impartiality".

Yet, the EU, who is the main commercial partner of the WTO, representing 42% of global trade, is backing its own candidate, former EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy. Mr Castillo, a Socialist, is from the same political family as Mr Lamy.

Four candidates have emerged in the race for the presidency of the international trade organization since 31 December 2004.

The Trade Commission has invited them all for public hearings in the European Parliament.

The Uruguayan candidate urged the EU to "harness all efforts" to ensure a successful conclusion to Doha round - opened in 2001 - in Hong Kong this year, but warned that expectations should be lowered.

"I wouldn't call it a development round", he said.

\"Honest Broker\"

Mr Castillo, a WTO veteran, who chaired most of its top bodies, including the General Council, is a firm supporter of multilateralism, which he believes to be the only alternative for developing nations. "Rules and discipline protect the poorest countries from unilateralism and discrimination", he said.

"I have always been a consensus builder, trying to find solutions with imagination", said Mr Castillo. "That's what it takes to get results (...) we need a Director General who can be an honest broker", he added.

If victorious, Mr Castillo said he would not carry out thorough reforms in the organization, which Mr Lamy criticized as being "medieval". "There are things the WTO can do and there are things the WTO cannot do and should not do", he stated, advocating instead for more work to be carried out in the Geneva headquarters instead of high-profile ministerial summits.

Drawing attention to the "need to improve the WTO's image before the public view in general", he assured that, if victorious, his door "will always be open" to NGOs.

Questioned about the fact that another Latin American candidate is in the race - the Brazilian Luis Felipe de Seixas Correa - Mr. Castillo said only himself has the support of the "overall majority" of Latin American states. He has previously boasted to have the solid support of the "agricultural countries" as well.

Mr Castillo showed concern that the race for the WTO's top job would cause disruption within the ranks, as in the current presidency which had to be split between Thai Supachai Panichpakdi, and New Zealander Mike Moore in an "unprecedented term sharing arrangement".

A decision will be taken by the WTO General Council on the 31 May 2005 at the latest.

Mauritius Islands' Jaya Krishna Cuttaree is the fourth contestant, who claims to have the support of the ACP countries.

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