- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2007

President Bush is expected to announce today that he will nominate former U.S. Trade Representative and Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick to replace Paul Wolfowitz as World Bank president, a senior Bush administration official said yesterday.

“Bob Zoellick’s experience and long career in international trade, finance and diplomacy make him uniquely prepared to take on this challenge,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“He has the trust and respect of many officials around the world, and believes deeply in the World Bank’s mission of lifting people out of poverty. … We have received positive reaction from other countries,” the official said.

Mr. Zoellick was among the candidates whose names have been circulating in recent weeks as Mr. Wolfowitz faced increasing pressure to step down and finally announced his resignation May 17 amid revelations that he broke bank rules by arranging a pay package for his girlfriend. He said he would resign at the end of June.

Mr. Zoellick left the State Department in June 2006 to become a managing director at New York investment firm Goldman Sachs Group, where Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. was chairman until June 2006. Mr. Paulson was in charge of the search for Mr. Wolfowitz’s successor.

As U.S. trade representative, Mr. Zoellick completed talks to grant China and Taiwan entry into the World Trade Organization during Mr. Bush’s first term and was later named deputy secretary of state.

He also worked on free-trade deals with Singapore, Chile, Australia and Morocco, and was a driving force behind the Central America Free Trade Agreement with five Central American countries and the Dominican Republic.

He would serve a five-year term, subject to the approval of the bank’s 24-member board, which represents its 185 member countries.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees international trade issues, said yesterday that he had “a lot of respect” for Mr. Zoellick.

“He’s extremely capable, and through his leadership for international trade, I know he has a real understanding of what it takes to advance economic development in poor countries,” Mr. Grassley said.

At the World Bank, Mr. Grassley said, he hoped Mr. Zoellick would “continue the vigorous campaign that Paul Wolfowitz started against corruption in beneficiary countries.”

“Paul Wolfowitz may have been railroaded out of his job, but his initiative must continue,” Mr. Grassley said.

Colin I. Bradford, a senior fellow on global economy and development at the Brookings Institution, called Mr. Zoellick a “strong” choice, if not ideal from the point of view of the bank’s international development mandate, as he does not come from an international development background.

At the same time, Mr. Bradford said Mr. Zoellick is a visible international figure with wide experience in international economic affairs.

The question, Mr. Bradford said, is whether the administration has consulted beyond the Group of Seven industrialized countries.

Mr. Zoellick has experience with countries outside the G-7, having pushed free-trade pacts with Bahrain, Jordan, Vietnam and other countries, and started talks with the Southern African Customs Union, Panama, the Andean countries and Thailand.

If the administration has consulted beyond the G-7 countries, Mr. Bradford said, the nomination may be approved easily.

Earlier yesterday, a German official said Germany had told the administration that it would support Mr. Zoellick’s nomination.

U.S. officials last week told European donors in a conference call that Mr. Zoellick might be the American choice to replace Mr. Wolfowitz, said the German official, who requested anonymity.

Germany was also ready to support Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt, a former ambassador to Germany, whose name was on a broader list of candidates, the official said.

Meanwhile, Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he discussed the choice of a new World Bank chief with Mr. Paulson this week.

“Canada has been asked for its input, and we’ve given our input,” Mr. Flaherty told reporters yesterday in Ottawa. He said the nominee would be “good for Canada,” without providing a name.

The new bank chief must build trust and raise morale among the bank’s 13,000 staff and managers, many of whom openly called for Mr. Wolfowitz’s resignation and then wanted him to give up day-to-day operations of the bank after he announced his resignation.

The former deputy defense secretary raised hackles by stepping up bank activities in Iraq, suspending aid to countries suspected of corruption and recruiting top advisers from the Bush administration.

Jon Ward contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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