- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 14, 2004

GENEVA — The United States and an increasingly assertive China are set to play decisive roles in the race to pick a new WTO chief, a process that began Friday with France’s nomination of former EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy.

The diplomatic input of China and the United States could be quite big in shaping the outcome, said a former senior Western official.

The United States has not taken a public stance on the race, but recently praised Mr. Lamy for his role in helping hammer out a deal with U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick in July that helped put the current round of World Trade Organization talks back on track.

It will be the first time China will have a formal say in the selection of a WTO chief since it joined the body in 2001.

All expectations here among diplomats and WTO insiders is that Beijing will weigh in heavily, as the WTO is central to the country’s economic reforms.

“I would say the Americans and the Asians — in particular, China — will be the kingmakers,” said a WTO ambassador from a Latin American country who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

China’s powerhouse economy, and permanent U.N. Security Council seat and veto power, give the world’s most populous nation diplomatic clout to muster support for a developing country’s candidate, diplomats say.

Besides the French candidate, Mr. Lamy, Brazil, Uruguay and Mauritius have also nominated candidates.

Some see China building a power coalition with other big developing economies such as India and Brazil to counter the traditional trade clout of the major Western industrial powers centered on the United States, the European Union and Japan.

Senior Chinese officials in Beijing spoke highly of Brazil’s candidate, Luiz Felipe de Seixas Correa, the country’s WTO ambassador.

The other candidates are Carlos Perez del Castillo of Uruguay and Jayen Cuttaree, the foreign- affairs and trade minister of Mauritius.

African diplomats say the minister of trade of Kenya, Mukhisa Kituyi, might also enter the campaign.

The nominations close Dec. 31, and the agency’s 148 member countries must select a candidate by consensus by the end of May 2005.

The incumbent, Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, a former Thai deputy prime minister, is scheduled to end his three-year term on Aug. 31, 2005.

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