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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, January 10, 2013 2:10 pm

Brazil's WTO candidate to focus on consensus

By MARCO SIBAJAAssociated Press

Brazil's candidate to head the World Trade Organization said Thursday that if he's selected he'll focus on restarting long-stalled global talks to lower trade barriers.

Speaking at a news conference in the capital, Brasilia, Roberto Azevedo said he'd strive to build consensus between developed and developing countries in hopes of resuming the so-called Doha Round of talks that began in 2001 but have not reached agreement. The unwillingness of developing powerhouses Brazil, China, Russia, India and South Africa to cede to U.S. demands for greater market access has been widely cited as one of the main stumbling blocks to the negotiations.

"The impasse in Doha Round negotiations has resulted in serious and concrete differences among the member states," said Azevedo, a 55-year-old who has served as Brazil's ambassador to the WTO. "Therefore, it's fundamental that the future director general be able to move easily among the different groups of countries, regardless of their level of development, without imposing views on anyone and trying to forge all possible consensuses."

Azevedo stressed that Brazil is known for its soft diplomatic touch and its ability to nudge opposing sides into sitting down together and said that he personally has demonstrated a similar capacity for consensus building during his tenure as WTO ambassador. He also emphasized that his insider knowledge of the workings of the WTO would prove an asset, were he to be selected.

In his bid to replace the WTO's outgoing director general, Pascal Lamy of France, Azevedo is up against seven other candidates from countries including South Korea, Jordan, Kenya and Ghana.

Two other Latin American contenders, from Mexico and Costa Rica, are also in the running, prompting some observers to speculate about whether the regional vote might be split between the three candidates. At Thursday's news conference, Azevedo brushed aside that possibility. He stressed that another regional powerhouse, Brazil's neighbor to the south, Argentina, has already come out in support of his candidacy.

The final phase of the selection process runs from April 1-May 31.

Brazil, along with other fast-growing developing nations, is looking to take on bigger roles in major global financial and trade decisions, primarily within institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the WTO.