The business on...Pascal Lamy, World Trade Organisation head


He looks worried


Can you blame him? Mr Lamy has now been director general of the World Trade Organisation for almost seven years. For the whole of that period, and the preceding three years, the great global economic powers of the world have beentrying to agree the Doha round of trade talks – and they still haven't managed it.

Goodness, how long can the stalemate go on?

In theory, forever. Mr Lamy worries that if no deal is done over the next few months, the proximity of the 2012 presidential election will leave the US unable to sign up to any agreement. And without it, there can be no settlement.

What happens then?

We get more of the same: countries doing unilateral deals with each other, but generally feeling reluctant to drop barriers to trade, particularly in the cautious aftermath of the financial crisis. It's all bad news for the global economy.

Is there any hope?

Well, the European Union presented new proposals in Geneva yesterday in the latest round of talks. And a group led by David Cameron is trying to broker a deal. But agreement remains some way off.

Is Mr Lamy the man for the job?

There's no doubting the marathon-running Frenchman's stamina – he's renowned for getting by on little sleep and little food.

But is he tough enough?

Yes. Urbane and intellectual,Mr Lamy has a hard side too. He made his name at the European Commission in the Eighties, where he served as the then president Jacques Delors' chief of staff. So ruthless was he in service of his boss, his nicknames included the Beast of the Berlaymont (the Commission's headquarters), the Gendarme and Exocet.

Still, time is running out?

Indeed, aged 64, Mr Lamy can't go on forever. His second four-year term at the WTO began in September 2009 – and if he can't get the Doha deal done, you wouldn't bet on him being given a third bite of the cherry.

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