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A dispiriting exercise in blame-shifting took place in early June at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Trade negotiators have been trying for months to find a few items where they agree so they can declare the Bali ministerial meeting in December a success, and then bury the broader Doha Round.
Congratulations to Ambassador Roberto Azevedo from Brazil, who will be the next Director-General of the WTO. Ambassador Azevedo campaigned for the WTO position as an insider who could hit the ground running and that is exactly what he will need to do. He also said that being an insider would help him in rebuilding trust among the members and he will need to get started on that immediately—even before he takes over on September 1.
Yet another Bangladesh garment factory tragedy is making headlines. Last November more than 100 workers died in the Tazreen factory fire, some of them because factory managers blocked doors and told them to ignore the fire alarms going off.
The next Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will be the first from Latin America and just the second from a developing country. Ambassador Bashir of Pakistan announced on Friday that Roberto Azevedo from Brazil and Herminio Blanco from Mexico will advance to the final round of consultations while Mari Pangestu from Indonesia, Taeho Bark from Korea, and Tim Groser from New Zealand withdrew.
So the initial round of results are in and there were some surprises. Early this
month, odds makers in the United Kingdom and Ireland had Mr. Kyerematen, from Ghana, and Ms. Gonzalez, from Costa Rica, as the favorites to become the next director-general of the World Trade Organization, but both are out after the first round of consultations. The next round of consultations will begin next
week, and the final two should be announced by the end of the month.
The madness of the US NCAA basketball championship is in full swing and getting lots of attention in Washinton, but a globally more significant competition is entering the final stages in Geneva. Just as 68 US college basketball teams were winnowed to a sweet sixteen, and soon to an elite eight, and so on, nine candidates for director-general (DG) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will soon be trimmed to a fab five, then a dynamic duo, and, by May 31, a champion to lead the world trade system.
While the World Trade Organization is not normally seen as a development organization, a strong, rules-based trade system is still critically important for developing countries, and the WTO is at the center of that system. Later this year, the organization will select a new leader to succeed Pascal Lamy and the expectation is that the person will be from a developing country.
Earlier today, the US Trade Representative issued a call for comments on a petition to withdraw, suspend, or reduce Bangladesh’s benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) over its failure to improve labor rights. There is no question that working conditions in Bangladesh’s garment factories are abysmal and that efforts to organize workers to protect themselves are suppressed.
Virtually all the footwear that Americans buy is imported, and those shoes are taxed at an average rate of 10 percent—eight times higher than the average for all imports. This “policy” is a relic of an earlier age that poses an unjustified burden for poor American consumers, who spend a higher share of their incomes on highly taxed shoe and clothing imports than do richer Americans.