Mexico's WTO candidate, a seasoned trade negotiator

Herminio Blanco, one of two final candidates to lead the World Trade Organization, is no stranger to hard bargaining, having led Mexico's negotiations in a major trade pact with the United States and Canada.

Blanco is a 62-year-old economist who served as Mexico's chief negotiator for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a historic deal that came into force in 1994, unleashing massive commerce between the three nations.

For his candidacy to succeed Frenchman Pascal Lamy as WTO director general, Blanco has highlighted his long experience in reconciling the rival interests of wealthy and developing nations.

Blanco, who served as trade minister between 1994 and 2000, played a role in the Uruguay round of talks that led to the creation of the WTO in 1995.

He also led negotiations that led to trade agreements with the European Union and smaller nations including Nicaragua and Bolivia.

"I led negotiations in 10 free trade agreements with countries much richer than mine, but also with some that were less developed," Blanco told AFP in an interview. "I was successful because I understood the realities of each and every one of them."

With global trade talks at a standstill, Blanco said that the WTO must "bridge the gap" between the organization's diverse member nations in order to restore its credibility.

The post of WTO director general is high profile because its holder is tasked with reviving long-stalled talks on boosting global commerce and economic development in the organization's 159 member states.

Blanco is part of Mexico's old ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which governed the country without interruption from 1929 until 2000. The PRI returned to power in December and President Enrique Pena Nieto presented him as Mexico's WTO candidate.

When the PRI lost the 2000 election, Blanco went into the private sector, working as an advisor in politics and international trade for governments and corporations.

He is the founder and chief executive of IQOM Inteligencia Comercial, a consultancy that provides daily online analyses on trade in Latin America.

Blanco also serves as a member of the board of several companies, including Mexican bank Banorte and the Latin American Trade Bank (BLADEX).

He has a bachelor's degree in economics from Mexico's Monterrey Institute of Technology and a doctorate in the same field from the University of Chicago.