Lamy to be appointed WTO's director general

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The Independent Online

Pascal Lamy, the combative Frenchman who lobbied for the EU in the global trade talks, has become the new director general of the World Trade Organisation.

Pascal Lamy, the combative Frenchman who lobbied for the EU in the global trade talks, has become the new director general of the World Trade Organisation.

Mr Lamy beat off the challenge from Carlos Perez del Castillo to win support from a majority of the 148 country members.

The decision, taken by a selection panel based on members' views, still has to be approved by a full meeting of the membership.

In a statement from the WTO's Geneva headquarters, Amina Mohamed, the Kenyan ambassador and chairman of the general council, said: "Our assessment from the information provided to us during this stage of consultations is that Pascal Lamy is the candidate most likely of the two to attract consensus."

When he takes over on 1 September he will inherit a poisoned chalice from his predecessor, Supachai Panitchpakdi of Thailand.

Mr Lamy has less than three months to get a consensus from the WTO's members over a row between rich and poor countries about the level of subsidy provided by the EU, US and Japan to farmers.

The talks collapsed amid angry scenes at the last ministerial in Cancun, Mexico, in September 2003. However, in July last year the EU made an offer to eliminate export subsidies, which has been seen as the first step in breaking the impasse.

But Mr Lamy was criticised for contributing to the collapse of the Cancun talks by taking a hard-line stance.

Critics are also concerned that his appointment is the third global position to go to a rich nation, following the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Aftab Alam Khan, ActionAid International's trade campaign co-ordinator, said: "Pascal Lamy's credentials were dented at Cancun. As the WTO's director general he must deliver a development dimension to talks - something he failed to grasp as EU trade commissioner."

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