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Mexico confident as WTO leadership race wraps up

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

The team behind Mexican candidate Herminio Blanco expressed confidence on Monday that he would be the next leader of the World Trade Organization, saying he had built worldwide support among rich and poor nations alike.

"We're not crying victory, but we're very, very confident," a senior Mexican diplomatic source told AFP as the Geneva-based WTO prepared to wrap up the contest pitting Blanco against Brazil's Roberto Azevedo.

Both men have pledged to break the deadlock in the 159-member WTO's "Doha Round" of trade liberalisation talks, launched in 2001 with the goal of deploying international commerce to develop poorer economies.

The concessions needed to reach a deal have sparked clashes notably between China, the European Union, India and the United States.

"We've got support from all countries, whether least-developed, developing or developed, and from all regions," the source said.

He claimed that Blanco had the support of "99 percent" of the 27-nation EU, whose collective punch places it among the most powerful WTO players.

EU members were expected to set out their position Tuesday at the WTO, before a formal announcement of the winner Wednesday.

Blanco, a 62-year-old economist, has a heavyweight reputation.

He was Mexico's negotiator for the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, served as a minister of commerce and also boasts solid private sector credentials.

"He's someone who generates a vast consensus among member countries, and inspires confidence in the business world," the source said.

Brazil, however, has also flagged up Azevedo's broad international support, with officials claiming that scores of countries back him.

The 55-year-old could benefit from his insider status, having been Brazil's WTO ambassador since 2008 and therefore well-aware of how to work the system to try to clear the Doha logjam.

An unprecedented nine names entered the race to succeed former EU trade boss Pascal Lamy at the WTO's helm.

Since it was created in its current form in 1995, the WTO's chiefs have been Irish, Italian, New Zealander and Thai, and with Frenchman Lamy in charge since 2005, emerging economies are keen to claim the slot.

The WTO does not hold leadership elections, but instead picks its chief by consensus, after senior diplomats identify who musters the most support.

Those who stumbled in the first round in mid-April were from Kenya, Ghana, Jordan and Costa Rica, while Indonesia, South Korea and New Zealand exited the race in the second round at the end of the month.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130506/mexico-confident-wto-leadership-race-wraps