Mexican candidate aims to restore WTO to former glory

Herminio Blanco, Mexico's candidate to lead the World Trade Organization, said Tuesday he aimed to reboot stalled global trade talks and restore the WTO to its former standing.

Blanco, a former Mexican trade and industry minister who led his country's negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement, is to face Brazil's WTO permanent representative, Roberto Carvalho de Azevedo, in the third and final round of the selection process next week.

"The main challenge is the "W" in "WTO", I mean the word World," Blanco told AFP in an interview Tuesday, with only eight days remaining to campaign for the top spot.

The Doha Round of trade talks, launched in 2001 to help boost global commerce and economic development in the organisation's 159 member states, have long been treading water, and a number of countries have begun focusing on the bilateral and regional track instead, he cautioned.

"You have to transfer this energy (of negotiating regional agreements) back to Geneva," where the WTO is based, to prove the usefulness and global reach of the organisation, Blanco said.

The next WTO chief must look forward and try to understand what global trade will look like in 10 or 15 years, the 62-year-old economist said, stressing the need to "change to stay the leading organisation."

The global trade organisation must "adjust, and not be in a defensive mode," if it wants to keep "ahead of the game," he said.

Blanco insisted he was the best man to succeed Frenchman Pascal Lamy, whose second and final four-year term wraps up at the end of August, and to lead the WTO through the needed changes.

"My candidacy is a package of skills, experience, ambition and creativity," Blanco said, stressing that he had worked in both the public sector, where he had negotiated a number of complex trade deals, and in the private sector, on the boards of companies in the United States, Asia and Europe.

Blanco said his country of origin was also a plus, pointing out that "trade has played a central role in the transformation of Mexico."

So far, he said he has received backing from many countries from all corners of the globe.

"The campaign continues, but we (Mexico) have a good chance to make it to the end," he said.

The WTO's next chief is expected to be named on May 7 or 8, following the final selection round in a process that started off with nine candidates.

Unlike the process in similar organisations, such as the various arms of the United Nations, whose chiefs are nominated, the WTO picks its leader by consensus.

Created in 1995, the WTO aims to advance global trade talks to spur growth by opening markets and removing trade barriers, including subsidies, excessive taxes and regulations.