Brazilian Passed Over for WTO Position

By Marcela Canavarro, Contributing Reporter

Ellen Gracie is a minister of Federal Supreme Court (STF), photo by José Cruz / Agência Brasil.

Ellen Gracie is a minister of Federal Supreme Court (STF), photo by José Cruz / Agência Brasil.

RIO DE JANEIRO – A defeat for an international election at the World Trade Organization (WTO) provoked a wave or criticism to Brazilian External Relations Ministry, which is usually considered one the best areas in 6 years of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s administration.

Itamaraty – as the External Relations Office is known in Brazil – launched the Minister of Federal Supreme Court (STF) Ellen Gracie as a candidate for the Appellate Body of WTO. The organism denied her name for its highest Court as she is not specialized in International Trade and has not published any articles about the area she would be supposed to judge if elected.

Experts say the candidature was a mistake and a lack of strategy of Brazilian Government. Ellen Gracie is a former president of STF and is well-known at Brazilian Judiciary but her competitors at the WTO’s Appellate Body were specialized in International Trade. The WTO indicated the Mexican candidate Ricardo Ramirez would be named for the postition.

Diplomats at Itamaraty criticized the candidature supported by Lula and Minister of External Relations Celso Amorim, affirming it was politicized and didn’t observe the technical aspects taken into consideration by the WTO. Itamaraty highlighted the fact that Ellen Gracie was the first woman at the STF Presidency and argued that she would give a “new point of view” for the WTO. Accordingly to Brazilian press, Gracie had to admit she was not an expert in international trade when argued by WTO commission, led by its general-director Pascal Lamy.

“It was an awkward idea. It’s totally political. The Government forgot that the WTO is a technical organization”, affirmed Rubens Ricupero, a former general-secretary of Unctad, an organism of the United Nations, and former Brazilian Minister of Treasury, for national newspaper O Globo.

A position at the Appellate Body of WTO is considered strategic by the Government. Brazil has been one of the major opponents of subsides offered by European and American governments for national agriculture and is an important player at negotiations for the Doha Round at the WTO. In face to the world crisis, Brazil expects reinforced protectionism that might put the Appellate Body at an even more important role for global trade issues, which involve disputes of billions of dollars.

The Latin American countries haven’t supported Brazilian candidature at WTO. Experts have said that as Brazil seeks to be the main Latin representative for global issues, its neighbors have been trying to block its increasing protagonist position. Mexico, Argentina and Costa Rica have complained that Brazil wishes to keep a seat at the WTO for too long as the position under dispute have been taken by Luiz Otávio Baptista, who is Brazilian. He resigned after 8 years to submit himself to a health treatment.

The defeat at the WTO election is just one of a sequence of failed attempts to put Brazilian representatives on important positions at global organisms. Brazilian candidates were also denied at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), World Intellectual Property Organization, Inter-American Development Bank and at the WTO itself, where Brazil tried to elect a General-Director in 2005. The country is also seeking a permanent seat at the Security Council at the United Nations.

It’s part of Lula’s administration’s strategy to improve Brazil’s position within the global geopolitics and the government sees these international organizations as an important stage. Lula has just 1.5 year more in the Presidency, and has not given any relevant step on international elections.

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