Pascal Lamy of France speaks during a news conference after making his presentation to the WTO's governing general council in Geneva
Denis Balibouse  /  Reuters file
Former European Union trade commissioner Pascal Lamy of France speaks during a news conference in Geneva last January. Lamy was named as the next head of the World Trade Organization Thursday.
updated 5/26/2005 11:53:18 AM ET 2005-05-26T15:53:18

The World Trade Organization said Thursday that former European Union trade chief Pascal Lamy of France will become its new director-general later this year.

The WTO General Council chose Lamy after considering him and three other candidates in a two-month selection process. He will take over after current WTO director-general Supachai Panitchpakdi’s term ends Aug. 31.

“I congratulate Pascal on his selection as director-general,” Supachai said. “His experience in trade matters, his grasp of detail and his proven track record in institutional management ensure that he will be an excellent director general.”

Lamy said he was honored, and pledged to concentrate on reaching a successful conclusion to the current round of global trade talks.

The goal, he said in a statement, is to “ensure that trade opening continues to contribute to development and that we place the interests of developing countries at the center of the world trading system.”

Lamy, who received a recommendation from the WTO’s selection panel earlier this month, was unopposed going into the confirmation meeting of the 148-member body.

Kenyan Ambassador Amina C. Mohamed, the chair of the selection panel, said two weeks ago that Lamy had “very clear,” broad support among WTO members.

Carlos Perez del Castillo of Uruguay — Lamy’s last remaining rival for the post — withdrew from the race after the panel said Lamy was the candidate most likely to win consensus approval.

Under WTO rules, Mohamed’s panel had until May 31 to establish which candidate had the broadest backing. “It is understood that the candidate or candidates least likely to attract consensus shall withdraw” over those two months, the rules say.

“This process has proven that WTO members can work together and take difficult decisions by consensus,” Mohamed said Thursday.

The selection system was adopted in 2002 to avoid a recurrence of the deadlock that occurred in 1999 when WTO members were unable to choose a director-general for the four-year term.

When the position was up for grabs in 1999 it provoked a bitter dispute between supporters of Supachai, of Thailand, and New Zealand’s Mike Moore that left the WTO leaderless for four months. In a compromise, the two men shared the job, with each getting a three-year term.

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