Members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have formally appointed Brazil’s Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo as the group’s next director general, capping a six-month leadership contest.
Azevêdo was chosen to replace Pascal Lamy as the head of the WTO, beating out candidates from Costa Rica, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, and South Korea.
In accepting the endorsement of the WTO General Council, Azevêdo acknowledged that the organisation is in a deep malaise as a result of the inability to conclude the Doha Round of trade talks.
“I have been working in and with this organisation continuously for the last 15 years. I have seen it in much better days,” Azevêdo told the Council. “I pledge to all members that I will work with them, with unwavering and steadfast determination, to restore the WTO to the role and pre-eminence it deserves and must have.”
Azevêdo will take up the post on September 1 and promised to provide more details soon about his plans to help overcome the current impasse at the WTO. It is widely expected he will map out a moderately ambitious package of proposals for the Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia this December.
Observers say that Azevêdo will need to make tangible progress in areas of concern to developing and least developed countries, such as trade facilitation and agricultural-related items, if he hopes to break the deadlock that has stymied the Doha negotiations that began nearly 12 years ago.
“The negotiating pillar of the WTO is completely struck, there is a clear paralysis in the system,” Azevêdo told reporters in Geneva following his confirmation. “I hope I have made this very clear that the Doha round is my top priority because of the things that are in the round which are extremely important for what we do for the business but also because by unlocking them we will be taking the organisation away from paralysis.”
Azevêdo served as Brazil’s ambassador to the WTO since 2008.