By Andrew Willis, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Brazilian government has nominated the country’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevedo, as a candidate to lead the international institution. The term of current WTO chief Pascal Lamy comes to an end on August 31st, 2013.

Roberto Azevedo
Brazilian ambassador to the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevedo, photo by Ministério das Relações Exteriores.

Azevedo has been Brazil’s representative to the WTO and other economic organizations based in Geneva, Switzerland, since 2008, leading the Brazilian delegation during the Doha round of talks for a multilateral trade agreement.

In a statement, Itamaraty, the seat of Brazil’s ministry of external relations, said that the nomination of a Brazilian candidate: “represented the importance attributed by the country to a strengthening of the WTO, and sought to contribute to the institutional development of the organization and social and economic development worldwide.”

Brazil is among those countries that would like the WTO to play a larger role in solving of currency disputes, although China is strongly opposed to this.

With recent WTO chiefs hailing from either Europe or Asia, a candidate from Latin America or Africa is widely tipped for the prestigious trade position next year. Several other people are jostling to take over from France’s Lamy however, including candidates from Costa Rica, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Mexico, New Zealand and South Korea. The deadline for nominations is midnight December 31st 2012.

Brazil’s Azevedo is reported to have the support of the BRICS countries. “We know that Brazil is considering the candidature of ambassador Roverto Azevedo,” India’s representative to the WTO, Jayant Dasgupta said before Friday’s announcement, according to the Valor newspaper. “If this occurs it will give the members a choice, and he will be a strong candidate.”

Pascal Lamy, Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO)
Pascal Lamy, Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO), photo by Sikarin Thanachaiary/World Economic Forum.

Neighboring Argentina has also said it supports a Brazilian as the future head of the WTO, although Brazil’s recent record on trade openness may raise doubts among other countries.

In September Brasília announced plans to raise import tariffs on a hundred foreign products in order to help struggling local industries, with the list including steel, rubber tires, chemicals and potatoes.

The move served to heighten already tense trade relations with developed countries, prompting U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to urge Rousseff’s government to perform a u-turn.

“We cannot accept that legitimate trade defense initiatives by developing countries be unfairly classified as protectionism,” was Rousseff’s response, delivered during a speech that month to the UN General Assembly in New York.

By some measures, Brazil is the world’s sixth largest economy, helping the country to acquire increased diplomatic clout. Last year a Brazilian was appointed to lead the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

The WTO, on the other hand, has suffered a series of blows in recent years, most significantly the failure to secure a new multilateral trade deal from the Doha round of talks. Supporters of more open trade say it is one way to lift the current economic malaise that is affecting the world economy.

In June 2009 the defeat of Brazil’s Minister of Federal Supreme Court (STF) Ellen Gracie for an international election at the World Trade Organization (WTO) was a diplomatic disappointment. The selection process for a new WTO chief will take place between March 31st and May 31st next year.


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