Thursday, December 20, 2012

Africa's WTO Chief?

I have followed the race for the next WTO chief in this blog regularly here and here based on press reports. While the race is heating up, unexpected runners are coming into the fray. The WTO website announced that Ghana, on 17 December 2012, nominated Mr Alan John Kwadwo Kyerematen for the post of WTO Director-General.Jordan had also planned to put up its candidate.


Reflecting on the concerns of less developed countries interests at the WTO, Ghana's candidate got support from some press reports here:
"From the mission, functions and principles of WTO highlighted above, it is clear in theory that the WTO is committed to serving the collective interests of all member states. In practice however, the role of WTO as a conduit for improved and democratic international trade has been very controversial as it seems to serve the interests of predominantly the major nations and multinational enterprises. It continuously remains governed by world superpowers to the detriment of the voiceless economies. Can we expect a more responsive, representative and sensitive global trade governance with the election of yet another illustrious son of Africa – Mr. Alan Kwadwo Kyerematen - as the Director General of the World Trade Organization? 
In order that, the World Trade Organization (WTO) remains focused on its guiding principles, the need to reduce the influence of superpowers is paramount. There should be a redefined commitment to encourage sustained economic development and transparency. Not until this is done, there is little the developing world can do to compete favorably with the advanced world. Consequently, the effectiveness of WTO would be scarcely felt. In the events where the WTO does not give a listening ear to the concerns of the less-privileged nations, the dream and desire to bridge the inequality gap between the north and the south will everlastingly be a hallucination. Taking constructive actions to respect the views of the marginalized in the trade policy-making process is the surest way to address the anti-democratic and non-transparent negotiating procedures characterized by the World Trade Organization (WTO)."
Some questions:

1. Will a Director General (DG) from a developing country or least developed world have a bearing on the interests of these countries at the WTO? Is it a matter of representation only or more substantive efforts can be made to make the WTO more concerned about developing country interests?

2. Will dispute settlement mechanism processes and outcomes be impacted by the nationality of the DG? In a rule-based system, how much impact does a DG from a developing world have on charting the course of disputes?

3. Will the focus of negotiation change because of the concerns of a DG from the south? If the WTO is a member driven organization then to what extent can the Secretariat and DG influence the course the WTO takes?

4. Does the WTO actually favor the interests of the developed economies? Is it as simple as that?

The previous DGs were from UK (Eric Wyndham White), Switzerland (Olivier Long and Arthur Dunkel), ireland (Peter Sutherland), Italy (Renato Ruggiero), New Zealand (Mike Moore), Thailand (Supachai Panitchpakdi) and France (Pascal Lamy).

Jordan, Ghana, New Zealand or another surprise .. whose next?

Update: Costa Rica, on 19 December 2012, nominated Minister Anabel González for the post of WTO Director-General


James Williamson said...

The DG post should be given to an African. There has been a tacit understanding among developing countries that the next DG should come from either Africa or Latin American. It is therefore surprising for Indonesia and Korea to nominate candidates for the post. In the case of Korea, they are being greedy considering that there is a Korean UN Secretary-General and a Korean-American World Bank President. Korea is also represented on the WTO Appellate Body. Countries need to be sensitive when nominating candidates. The same goes for Brazil and Mexico. For a start, Brazil's trade envoy is young and does not have any substantial managerial experience. He has not been a Minister and has not managed anything substantial. Being the head of mission hardly qualifies one to head the WTO. Moreover, as a big player in international trade circles, it is not good for the WTO Chief to come from such a country. Had Lamy come from a small developing country, he could have probably succeeded in bringing closure to the Doha Round. A Brazilian was recently named as the Head of the FAO and they also had someone who competed for the Director-General of WIPO. There is a Mexican currently heading the OECD, so it would be too much for another Mexican to head the WTO. The other candidates do not have impressive credeentials. The Kenyan candidate has never held any Ministerial position and has not distinguished herself in the trade field. She was unsuccessful in her did to become a member of the Appellate Body. The candidate from Jordan is a scientist and has not had much involvement with the WTO and the multilateral trading system. That leaves four serious candidates, Mari Pangestu of Indonesia, Tim Groser of New Zealand, Alan Kyerematen of Ghana and Anabel Gonzalez of Costa Rica. It may be difficult for Indonesia to get the support of other developing countries, for the simple reason that it had been agreed among developing countries that the next DG should come from Latin America or Africa, given that Dr Supachai is from Thailand. It may also be difficult for Tim Groser to be elected for the simple reason that he is from New Zealand, where Mike Moore comes from. Moreover, there is an understanding among developing countries that they will not accept a candidate from the developed World. Between Ghana's Alan Kyerematen and Costa Rica's Anabel Gonzalaz, the Ghanaian candidate has more impressive credentials. It is known that Anabel Gonzalez had a hard time managaing the Agriculture Division of the WTO, so managing the whole WTO would be a challenge which she cannot cope.

Srikar said...

Dear James,

This is an excellent analysis of the candidate in the fray! Another question is whether the selection would be by consensus or will go down to the wire!

James said...

With 9 candidates, it would be by far the most difficult selection process to date. In 2005, there were only 4 candidates. The WTO makes decisions by consensus, so no Member has to object to the appointment of a candidate. However, if there is a clear preference of a candidate by the majority of countries, it would be difficult for him or her to be vetoed by a country. It will be interesting!