Pascal Lamy Will Run Unopposed for WTO Chief

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/06/2009 06:19:00 AM
Oh my, this is certainly not very good news for those of us wishing for more LDC representation in international institutions--especially multilateral economic institutions. The time has expired for WTO members to nominate candidates for WTO director-general. In 2009, French Socialist Pascal Lamy's current term ends. Unlike in 2005 when three candidates were forwarded by LDCs, there have been no candidates forwarded this year. Indeed, Lamy will run unopposed for a second term.

What explains this turn of events? On the positive side, you can suggest that Pascal Lamy has displayed exemplary leadership, gaining support from both developed and developing countries with his even-handed and accommodative style. Cambridge's Amrita Narlikar would probably agree with this assessment. OTOH, I can think of several other reasons that are much less positive about this development:
  • Lamy's stature is such that he's scared away potential LDC candidates;
  • being WTO chief is an unwanted job circa 2009. As countries the world over experience economic slowdowns, the prospects for an agreement on the Doha Round are as dim as ever;
  • LDCs have more important things on their agendas than the symbolism offered by having one of their own preside over the WTO;
  • LDCs simply don't care much about the WTO--it has become an irrelevant institution.
I thought that Lamy's inability to move Doha forward would spur LDCs to consider placing one of their own as WTO chief. Who'd be better placed to break repeated North-South deadlocks than someone from the Third World who grasps the nuances involved here? [Note to self: maybe I should aspire to become WTO Director-General one day.] The last was Thailand's Supachai Panitchpakdi, currently the UN Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) secretary-general. Oh well, on to the inevitable. From Agence France-Presse:
The World Trade Organisation said Monday that its current director-general, Pascal Lamy, would be unopposed in his bid to renew his mandate when it expires in August this year. None of the organisation's 153 member states put forward another candidate by the deadline of December 31, 2008, WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell told AFP.

Lamy, who took the helm of the global trade watchdog in September 2005, announced last November that he would aim to take on a second term in office when his current four-year mandate expires in August.

The WTO's members are due to elect the next chief at a meeting of the trade watchdog's ruling General Council next month. Lamy is "practically assured" of re-election, a source close to the WTO said. It is the first time that an incumbent director-general will stand unopposed, the source added.

Previous leadership races at the global trade body have often been fractious affairs that highlighted splits between rich and poor countries or between Europeans and the United States. In 1999, the wrangling was only resolved by a compromise decision to appoint the two outstanding candidates on a shortened term of three years each. Former New Zealand prime minister Mike Moore was followed by the former deputy prime minister minister of Thailand, Supachai Panitchpakdi.

Lamy, a former French government official and the European Union's trade commissioner until 2004, has championed the rules-based global free trade system the WTO represents during his tenure and warned against protectionism.
They used to regard this as a plum job. I guess not anymore.

UPDATE: Carolyn Deere of the ICTSD also believes that Pascal Lamy shouldn't be given a free pass.