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Lamy only candidate for next head of WTO

The current head of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Pascal Lamy, is the only candidate to be the next director general, since no one has emerged to challenge him for the job, a WTO spokesman said Jan. 5.

Lamy was the only candidate to have come forward when nominations closed on Dec. 31, spokesman Keith Rockwell told Reuters. “No one else has thrown their hat into the ring.”

Lamy’s four-year term as head of the body that referees world trade expires at the end of August this year.

WTO members must now decide whether Lamy’s reappointment is automatic or the organization should still go through the motions of a formal selection process, which would name a successful candidate by May 31 to take office from September.

It is the first time in the WTO’s 14-year history that there has been no contested candidacy, with previous bitterly fought elections lasting for months.

“The decision by WTO members not to propose contenders to Lamy’s quest for re-election signals, at best, their confidence in Lamy’s continued leadership and, at worst, the perceived lack of viable alternatives,” said Carolyn Deere, director of the global trade governance project in the Global Economic Governance Program at University College, Oxford.

“For many members, there are also concerns about rocking the leadership boat given the uncertain political environment and the tenuous future of the Doha round,” she said in a blog.

When he announced in November that he would stand for a second term, Lamy said that concluding the Doha round would go a long way towards establishing a multilateral trading system and ensuring that opening up trade would serve developing countries.

In December Lamy decided against calling a meeting of ministers to seek a breakthrough in Doha because of big differences between the United States and major emerging countries such as China, India and Brazil.

Although the WTO’s 153 members were close to a deal on cutting farm subsidies and industrial and agricultural tariffs, major trading powers were unable to agree on safeguards for farmers in poor countries and proposals to create duty-free zones for some industries like chemicals.

Lamy, 61, believes a Doha deal would help counter the global economic crisis by strengthening defences against protectionism, which aggravated the Great Depression in the 1930s, and sending a positive signal to businesses.

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