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WTO Secretariat ‘Reorganizes for New Round’

Geneva, 16 Dec (Chakravarthi Raghavan) - - The Director-General of the WTO, Mr. Mike Moore announced on Friday (14 December), at a meeting with the staff, a reorganization of the secretariat, as he has put it in the speech and letter to staff, “to reflect the work priorities of the Doha Development Agenda”.

Moore’s meeting with the staff, was followed by an ‘information’ meeting with Heads of Delegations. The changes announced along with an organizational chart of the secretariat have been posted on the WTO’s website under the title ‘WTO Secretariat Reorganizes for New Round’.

Under the changes announced, the Development Division of the secretariat, which has been undertaking studies and research activities tuned to the needs of the developing countries, including the least developed, is to be wound up. The economic research work so far carried out by that division will be merged with the general economic research activities, and that division renamed Development and Economic Research Division.

The other activities of the development division are allocated among others to the Technical Cooperation Division.

The Development and Economic Research Division will now be headed by Mr. Patrick Low who has been the Director in the office of the Director-General since Mr.  Moore took over.

At the HOD meeting, according to some trade diplomats, the Philippines asked whythe changes were being made now, rather than waiting for any changes to be made by Mr. Moore’s successor.

When Mr. Moore took over in August 1999, he made some changes in the secretariat, and said he would make further changes after the Ministerial meeting in Seattle. However, no major changes were made after Seattle.

With just about eight months more in office before handing over to his already chosen successor, Mr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, Mr. Moore has now instituted the changes.

“So much for the Doha Development Agenda,” commented a trade diplomat from a developing country who expects the secretariat to be even more partisan than before Doha.

Third World diplomats and trade observers say that while the old GATT secretariat had always reflected the agendas and views of the US and the EU, the WTO secretariat under Mr. Renato Ruggiero became partisan and was politicised.  It has become more so now under Mr. Moore.

Nor could developing countries expect much help from the other international organizations and inter-governmental organizations in terms of research work to challenge the neo-liberal policy agendas being pushed through the new round, the diplomat felt, in the light of what happened in the runup to and at Doha itself.

The various international secretariats are looking for extra-budgetary resources from developed countries or funding organizations controlled by the developed world, and will promote those agendas.

The WTO secretariat’s Development Division was hitherto headed by Mr. Peter Talloch who has reportedly taken early retirement. While personal reasons are cited, according to reports current among developing country diplomats (even before Doha), there was some friction over some of the seminars and study programs Talloch had organized at the request of developing countries.

Mr. Patrick Low who has been director in Mr. Moore’s cabinet since Moore became DG in August 1999, goes back to the economic research division and will now head the ‘Development and Economic Research’ division.

Low came to the WTO secretariat’s predecessor, the GATT secretariat, as an economist with academic credentials, and is well regarded as a neo-classical liberal economist by economists in other international secretariats. However, they have also noted that in recent periods he has seen his role as one of ‘advocacy’, presumably of the dominant orthodox view in the WTO.

At a meeting with the staff Friday where he announced the changes, Mr. Moore said that the organizational changes being instituted by him were aimed at meeting five primary objectives:

1.   To reflect the work priorities of the Doha Development Agenda, as set out by Ministers. This will be achieved by reallocating certain existing resources and directing new resources towards mandated negotiations and work programmes, technical cooperation and capacity building, while at the same time ensuring that the Secretariat continues to carry out all its responsibilities in an effective manner.

2.   To make efficiency gains and cost savings. This will be achieved through streamlining and the consolidation of certain Divisions.

3.   To ensure proper coordination of related elements of work within the Secretariat. A decision will be taken on mechanisms needed to address cross-cutting issues within the Secretariat once the structure of the negotiating machinery under the Trade Negotiations Committee is known.

4.   To increase accountability and assess the efficiency of the Secretariat on a continuing basis. A function will be established within the Secretariat to further this objective and a report will be received early next year on how this function should operate.

5.   To communicate more effectively with the outside world on the work of the WTO, to be achieved through strengthening the Secretariat’s resources in this area and rationalizing their use. In addition, an assessment will be undertaken of the Secretariat’s communication and outreach strategies to see where improvements might be made, including in terms of taking advantage of synergies and better cooperation.

Meanwhile, a report in the Washington-based “Inside US Trade”, a specialist trade journal which trade diplomats here view as having the inside track to news and views of the office of the US Trade Representative, has reported that the industrialized countries do not want to put the WTO Director-General in sole charge of the Trade Negotiations Committee.

The ‘Inside US Trade’ report said that developed countries want to create a structure for the upcoming negotiations that would give a prominent role to the chairman of the General Council and a representative of the government that will host the next ministerial conference, with the Director-General of the WTO to chair the Trade Negotiations Committee.

This report, Third World diplomats in Geneva said, is reflective of US wariness with Moore’s successor, Mr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, who is due to take over from Mr. Moore in August.

The US early on in the election campaign for the WTO top post, had espoused the candidature of Mr. Mike Moore and had opposed Mr. Supachai and reluctantly went along with the final compromise that resulted in Mr. Moore taking office for a fixed term of three years and to be succeeded for another fixed term of three years by Mr. Supachai - with neither eligible for re-election. – SUNS5032

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

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