Reluctant Sutherland heads Gatt: Former EC commissioner takes charge of world trade talks after arm-twisting by Delors

Click to follow
BRUSSELS - Peter Sutherland, a former EC competition commissioner, was yesterday appointed the new Director-General of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the world trade watchdog, writes Sarah Lambert.

The 47-year-old Irishman succeeds Arthur Dunkel and it is agreed the newcomer will need all the charm, legal acumen and diplomatic skill honed thoughout a high- profile career to try and bring the stalled Uruguay Round of trade liberalisation talks to a successful conclusion before Washington's 15 December deadline.

Mr Sutherland, currently chairman of Allied Irish Banks, was initially reluctant to take on the job but had his arm twisted by Jacques Delors, the EC Commission president, and the Irish foreign minister Dick Spring.

He takes over as the prospects for a Gatt settlement that is already two years' behind schedule look rosier than for some considerable time. France yesterday lifted its block on an EC-US oilseeds deal and though Paris maintains the farm chapter of the Uruguay round remains unacceptable, resolution of the oilseeds issue gives negotiators new momentum to move on to contentious areas in the other 14 sectors such as textiles, telecommunications, services and intellectual property rights.

Hope is high that Mr Sutherland will grasp the nettle. Certainly, at the European Commission he established a reputation as a free- trader who effectively combined cajoling with cudgeling, set his own agenda and followed it.

It was Mr Sutherland who helped to shape the single market by giving Treaty instruments legal force and so forging EC merger policy, cracking down on unfair state aids and cartels.