U.S.–backed French citizen to be WTO's new Director General

Pascal Lami WTOPascal Lamy, a French citizen, will be appointed the next Director General of the World Trade Organization.

Carlos Perez del Castillo from Uruguay had been the only contender for the position, but he withdrew his candidacy. According to diplomatic sources, member states of the WTO might try to block up the recommendations of the selection committee but such a development seems highly unlikely.

The official statement regarding the appointment of the WTO's new Director General will be released on May 26th, 2005. Pascal Lamy will take over the WTO on August 30th when the current Director General Supachai Panitchpakdi is to step down.

Pascal Lamy was born in 1947. He graduated from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales and the Institute d'Etudes Politiques in Paris. He held a number of economic and financial posts with the French government before joining Credit Lyonnais in the 1990s, first as a member of the executive committee and later as CEO. He served as the EU High Commissioner for Trade from 1999 to 2004. Mr. Lamy became the head of association Our Europe in December 2004. He also teaches at the Institute d'Etudes Politiques in Paris.

The United States approves the appointment of a seasoned French administrator.

U.S. Department of State calls Mr. Lamy "a very strong candidate supported by the European Union." European analysts say the EU did not object to Paul Wolfowitz (severely criticized by European media for his prominent role in U.S.-led invasion in Iraq) being appointed to the presidency of the World Bank. The Americans returned thanks by pledging their support to Pascal Lamy's nomination.

The appointment of Pascal Lamy could be good news to Russia. It was Mr. Lamy who conducted the lengthy talks with Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref on terms and conditions relating to Russia's entry to WTO. The parties managed to agree on basic points. Mr. Lamy has reportedly acquired a good knowledge of Russian peculiarities and established a working relationship with Russian bureaucrats. On the other hand, we should not overestimate the role of a Director General of the WTO.

Last year the EU gave approval for Russia to join the WTO and a protocol was signed by then UE High Commissioner for Trade Pascal Lamy and Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref. But the protocol may be revised. According to Kommersant, the EU agreed to approve Russia's entry to the WTO while Russia agreed to set no obstacles to the European Union's enlargement into ex-communist Eastern Europe bringing the number of member states from 15 to 25 (10 countries joined the bloc last May). 

Peter Mandelson, a successor to Mr. Lamy as the EU High Commissioner on Trade, believes that the European Union should take a more severe stance on the accession issues for Russia. According to Kommersant, Mr. Mandelson and Mr. Gref are at loggerheads with each other over the issues relating to fees to be paid by European airlines for trans-Siberian flights and terms of investment agreements for Russia's automobile industry.

Russia has to step up its efforts to join the WTO because the membership rules will be changed next January. A set of new tighter standards for selection and accession procedures will come into effect after the next summit of the WTO members. Besides, Russia and Ukraine seem to be competing each other for an early integration into the WTO. Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko made it quite clear that Ukraine should complete its integration into the WTO by December this year. It would be extremely undesirable for Russia to discuss its membership issues with Kiev too should the latter overtake Moscow in the race for the World Trade Organization.

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Author`s name Olga Savka