TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr05/10)

26 April 2005


At a recent informal meeting at the WTO, it was announced that there are three remaining candidates for the post of the WTO Director General, and that a second round of consultations will take place. It is expected that the race will narrow to two candidates in a possible third round of consultations.

Below is an article by Kanaga Raja in the SUNS of 19 April. It is reproduced here with permission of the SUNS Bulletin.

With best wishes
Martin Khor


Second round of "confessionals" to begin on WTO DG selection

By Kanaga Raja, South North Development Bulletin (SUNS) Geneva, 18 April 2005

A second round of consultations on a revised slate of three candidates to select the next Director-General of the WTO will get underway on 21 April, an informal WTO meeting at the level of Heads of Delegation was told Friday.

The three candidates are Pascal Lamy (former EC Trade Commissioner), Jaya Krishna Cuttaree (Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Regional Cooperation of Mauritius) and Carlos Perez del Castillo (former ambassador of Uruguay to the WTO). The three candidates were announced in that order by the General Council chair, Ambassador Amina Chawahir Mohamed of Kenya, in terms of preferences expressed by members and breadth of support in the first round of consultations.

The fourth candidate, Ambassador Luiz Felipe de Seixas Correa of Brazil, came at the end of the list in the order of preferences announced by Ambassador Amina. According to subsequent news reports from Brasilia, the Brazilian government has announced its decision to withdraw the candidature of Ambassador Seixas Correa. The announcement was made by the Foreign Minister Celso Amorim on 15 April.

The informal meeting was called by Ambassador Amina to report to the membership on the outcome of the first stage of consultations (or 'confessionals' in WTO jargon) that was held on 4-13 April.

The first round of consultations got underway with a slate of the original four candidates. WTO members were asked to name three candidates in order of their preference. The aim of the first round was to eliminate one candidate, enabling the process to move to the next round of "confessionals" with three candidates. It is envisaged that another candidate may be asked to withdraw after the second round, leaving two candidates for a third and final round.

Ambassador Amina is being assisted in her consultations by two other WTO officials, the Chair of the Dispute Settlement Body, Ambassador Eirik Glenne of Norway and the Chair of the Trade Policy Review Body, Ambassador Donald Stephenson of Canada.

At the informal meeting Friday, Ambassador Amina reported that based on an assessment of the information provided by delegations during the consultations by her and her two colleagues, Ambassador Luiz Felipe de Seixas Correa was judged the "candidate least likely to attract consensus."

She said that Pascal Lamy enjoyed the highest level of support from Members, in terms of preferences and breadth of support. Jaya Krishna Cuttaree enjoyed the second highest level of support, and Carlos Perez del Castillo, the third highest level of support.

"All three of these candidates enjoyed broad support among the Members," she said. However, she added, a very small number of Members expressed concern over the candidacy of Pascal Lamy and his ability to lead the organization.

"On this basis, therefore, we intend to begin a second round of consultations starting on 21 April, which will be based on a revised slate of three candidates, as follows: Pascal Lamy, Jaya Krishna Cuttaree and Carlos Perez del Castillo." she said.

She indicated that she and her two facilitators will meet with individual delegations in her office at the WTO, for 5 minutes each and that delegations would be invited to respond to the same question that was posed to them in the first round of consultations: "What are your preferences?"

She said that the consultations will continue at the level of Heads of Delegation and emphasized that information received from Members in the first round of consultations will no longer be valid and therefore will not be used in the second round.

She noted that the whole process is to conclude with a General Council meeting convened not later than 31 May, at which a decision to appoint a new Director-General must be taken. "We remain firmly committed to meeting this deadline," she said.

The General Council chair reported to members that by the end of the first round of consultations on 13 April, she had received views from 142 members out of the total membership of 148. Of these, 120 are Geneva-based, and 22 are non-resident delegations. Of the 6 delegations who had not expressed their views by the end of the day on 13 April, one is non-resident.

Members were consulted individually, in their capacity as representatives of members and not of country groupings, regarding the views of their respective authorities on the candidates nominated for the post. All delegations were invited to respond to the question: "What are your preferences?"

Ambassador Amina said that in assessing the information received, and in reporting to members, she and her two colleagues have been guided strictly by the elements set out in paragraph 17 of the Procedures for the Appointment of Director-General

(WT/L/509), which she said required them to assess Members' preferences and the breadth of support for each candidate.

Paragraph 17 states that "the ultimate aim of the consultation process shall be to identify the candidate around whom consensus can be built. In order to do this, it may be necessary to conduct successive consultations to identify the candidate or candidates least likely to attract such a consensus."

The chair also recalled Paragraph 18 of the Procedures that said: "The outcome of the consultations shall be reported to the membership at each stage. It is understood that the candidate or candidates least likely to attract consensus shall withdraw. The number of candidates expected to withdraw at each stage of consultations shall be determined according to the initial number of candidates, and made known in advance. This process shall be repeated in successive stages on the basis of a revised slate of candidates each time, with the aim of establishing consensus around one candidate."

In assessing the preferences expressed by Members, she said that she and her two colleagues were guided by the provisions of paragraph 17. Preferences were weighed both in the rankings, if any, given by Members, and as a whole. "Our assessment was the same, whichever way the preferences were examined," she said.

As regards the breadth of support, she said that they had considered the distribution of preferences across geographic regions and among the categories of Members generally recognized in WTO provisions: that is, LDCs, developing countries and developed countries. Other criteria were considered and rejected, including political groupings or any measure of the size of individual Members, whether in terms of trade, or population or territory.

The Chair stressed that these criteria are not recognized in WTO provisions, or were discussed and rejected by Members in the formulation of the Procedures in 2002.

During the discussions that followed, Brazil said that it would like to have more time, and in the interest of transparency, that numbers (with regards to preferences stated by members) also be released. This request was seconded by China and India.

The Philippines wanted to know if the question that is to be posed to members with regards to their preferences would remain the same and whether the slate would be altered.

Switzerland said that Ambassador Amina and her colleagues had followed the procedures to the letter, adding that perhaps other criteria including trade weighted importance could be taken into account. However, Switzerland pointed out that it was not going to ask for this as it was not in the guidelines for the selection of the Director General. Japan also said that the General Council chair had followed the procedures to the letter.

Jamaica, and Antigua and Barbuda asked what effort would be undertaken to ensure the participation of non-residents in the second round. Morocco gave its full support to the process, while Pakistan appeared to support the views expressed by Brazil, India and China. Benin said that this was a contract of confidence and that all members had confidence in the three facilitators.

Chile said that it was entirely up to the General Council chair and the facilitators to decide as to whether or not the numbers should be released. If the chair thought that this would facilitate a consensus around one of the candidates, then she could do so, but if she did not, then she shouldn't, Chile added. The US agreed with the views expressed by Chile.

Zimbabwe said that if there was some way to satisfy the anxieties of those who would like to see the numbers, perhaps the chair could do that.

In her response, Ambassador Amina said that the procedures were agreed to by consensus in the General Council in 2002 and these are the procedures that she and her colleagues will be following. She added that they had been as transparent as they could and that neither she nor the facilitators believed that they could do anything differently to make the process more transparent. The test as to whether the procedures have been useful will not come today but at the end.

At the end of the process, she said, if members did not like the procedures, then discussions can be held about changing them, but this is not the time to change them, as it would not be good for the system.

The General Council chair said that she was not going to give out the numbers -- the reason being that the three of them were told to give an assessment. This was not a ballot and as they were informed by delegates in confidence, this confidence was going to be preserved, she added.

She said that she had informed the representatives of the four candidates ahead of the

31 March informal meeting of the Heads of Delegation about this and again on 15 April morning and they were not going to change that.

As for the request by Brazil for more time, Ambassador Amina said that this had been discussed before. All three (she and the two facilitators discussing on 14 April during the assessment period) agreed that it would not be useful for the process to delay the informal Heads of Delegation meeting. They wanted the membership to be informed as soon as possible.

She said that a small number of countries had indicated some concern over the ability of the French candidate to lead the organization. She also indicated that other concerns were raised by some members about a candidate (she did not specify who it was) who asked her not to record these concerns and that these could wait till the future.

In response to Ambassador Amina's comments, Brazil said that it was not trying to re-write the procedures. It just wanted full transparency. It added that it had taken note of what she had said and will assess what it plans to do next.