New WTO chief names deputies and goals

Incoming World Trade Organisation (WTO) chief Pascal Lamy, who takes over as director general on September 1, named his four deputies on Friday, setting his sights on rejuvenating the Doha round of trade talks ahead of a crucial December summit in Hong Kong.

Lamy, a Frenchman who was previously European Union trade chief, appointed Alejandro Jara of Chile, Rwanda’s Valentine Rugwabiza, India’s Harsha Singh and Rufus Yerxa of the United States as deputy directors general of the WTO.

“The coming months of preparation for the December Hong Kong ministerial conference will be instrumental to the future of our negotiations,” Lamy said. “This is a very strong team to lead the WTO secretariat into a crucial stage in the Doha development agenda negotiations.”

Jara and Rugwabiza are both currently their countries’ ambassadors to the WTO, while Singh is a former member of the WTO secretariat. Yerxa is a former deputy US trade representative and has served the past three years as deputy to outgoing director general Supachai Panitchpakdi.

Former European Union spokesperson Arancha Gonzalez was named Lamy’s chief of staff.

Last-ditch meetings this week—a key part of the process aimed at hammering out an accord at a the Hong Kong ministerial summit—failed to make significant progress in the key area of farm subsidies, meaning WTO members have missed a self-imposed July deadline for an outline deal covering all sectors.

Lamy has been keeping a low profile this week, meeting with EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson and Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath over lunch on Thursday, but stressing that his discussions were not held in an official capacity.

It was not clear whether Lamy planned to meet with other ministers and officials—including US trade representative Robert Portman, who arrived on Friday morning for a series of informal meetings.

“I hope the new director general will undertake his own appraisal of the situation and consider a different approach and way forward,” Mandelson said.

This round of talks—launched in Doha, Qatar, in 2001—is meant to pay extra attention to the interests of poorer countries as WTO members slash subsidies, tariffs and other barriers to global commerce.

But a 2003 conference in Cancun, Mexico, that was supposed to spur efforts collapsed, in large part over differences on agricultural policy.—Sapa-AP


Client Media Releases