Rumour Mill: Lord Mandelson, Next WTO Chief?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 5/21/2011 12:02:00 AM
I would advise you to take this latest report with a grain of salt. For, in the last few hours, Gordon Brown's statements championing a greater role for less-developed countries at the IMF which had been interpreted as his bid to become its next managing director have been pooh-poohed--by Brown himself.

That said, we have yet another New Labour stalwart waiting in the wings to fill posts in prominent international economic organizations. While British Prime Minister David Cameron scoffed at the idea of recommending Brown to become the next IMF chief, this new Guardian article suggests Cameron is keener on Peter Mandelson. Unlike Gordon Brown, Lord Mandelson remains remarkably unscathed by the financial crisis insofar as he was brought back by Labour from his role as EU trade commissioner to perform damage control instead of, let's be honest here, inflicting damage. And so the rumour mill churns again with the idea that the more amiable Mandelson has the ear of Cameron when it comes to replacing outgoing WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy who wraps up his second and last term in 2013:
In a sign of the prime minister's high regard for Labour's last business secretary, government sources indicated that Mandelson was seen in Downing Street as a strong candidate to succeed Pascal Lamy, who is to stand down as the WTO director general next year [actually, in September 2013 since his second four-year term began in 2009--but candidates' names must be put forward next year already].

"Peter Mandelson is a strong candidate for an international job," one government source said of Britain's former European trade commissioner. "The director general of the WTO, which will become available next year, is an obvious position. We are sure that Peter Mandelson would have a lot to offer."

The interest in Mandelson may be seen in Labour circles as troublemaking by the coalition, which is rubbishing Gordon Brown's unofficial campaign to fill the vacant position of managing director of the International Monetary Fund after the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The former prime minister made a speech in South Africa calling on rich western countries to meet their pledges to fund education for the world's poor.

Mandelson has been ruled out by Britain as a possible IMF head because he is does not have the necessary qualifications as a former finance minister or a former central bank governor. "Peter Mandelson does not have enough credibility for the IMF," the government source said. But the government does believe he would be well placed to succeed Lamy, Mandelson's French predecessor as EU trade commissioner. Lamy is a highly respected figure, though Cameron has been highly critical of the WTO's failure to complete the Doha trade round.
The reporter's angle on the coalition further undermining Gordon Brown is a doubtful one insofar as Brown's chances of political rehabilitation are remote. Neither is he inflicting much damage to the coalition nowadays as he mostly remains silent in parliament.

OTOH, while I remain a Peter Mandelson fan, I doubt whether he fancies the job and if he's really the man for it. After all, he was most enthusiastic about returning from abroad (Brussels, to be exact) when Gordon Brown came a-calling. If he so liked British politics that he would rather have been the de facto PM of a doomed government than stick around in Brussels, why would he want to venture there again? Next, alike at the IMF, I remain keen on an LDC candidate for the post. Just as I was wary of Lamy gaining a second chance at not completing Doha, so should I express caution about another industrialized country head at the WTO. Given the current difficulties over international trade negotiations, LDC voices need someone who feels our pain. Honestly, I am not sure if another ostensibly left-leaning politician with a penchant for the good life is what the WTO needs.

Nevertheless, don't forget the Pascal Lamy was himself a European trade commissioner prior to assuming his current post, so there is precedent there.