GENEVA (AP) — The World Trade Organization has settled on Roberto Azevedo of Brazil, a well-known diplomat and consummate insider in Geneva circles, to serve as its director general for the next four years, officials said Tuesday.
The directorship is chosen by consensus in a complex and secretive process, and the runner-up is expected to concede afterward. Diplomats emerged from consultations Tuesday to rush past journalists out of the building, barely acknowledging that Azevedo had defeated Mexican former trade minister Herminio Blanco in the final round.
Two diplomats confirmed Azevedo's selection to journalists on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal the winner ahead of the formal announcement, but Azevedo also re-tweeted that he has been chosen for the job and comments from various trade circles began trickling in.
A formal announcement on his selection is not expected until Wednesday.
In Washington, Jack Colvin, a vice president of the National Foreign Trade Council, said Azevedo's selection reflects "his extensive experience and deep familiarity with international trade institutions and processes on behalf of Brazil and the focus he has placed on consensus-building in Geneva."
Under WTO rules, a meeting of member-nations must be convened no later than May 31 to formally appoint Azevedo. The selection — not an election — spanned months of consultations among ambassadors from all 159 members, most of them nations but also some territories such as Hong Kong and Macau.
Azevedo is to take over the organization on Sept. 1 from Pascal Lamy of France, who has been the director-general for eight years.
He is poised to become the first Latin American to head the Geneva-based trade organization since its creation in 1995. He won out in a field that originally had nine candidates at the start of this year.
Azevedo will be taking over an organization whose role as a multilateral forum for negotiations is, according to insiders and observers, in growing doubt.
In recent years, the WTO has been used more as forum to settle trade disputes and monitor policy than as a host for serious trade negotiations. That tendency reflects the rise of regional and bilateral trade negotiations among the major powers.
Azevedo, who has insider knowledge of the WTO's workings, calls himself a consensus-builder between developed and developing countries. He says he will set aside his Brazilian hat to take on the global role.
But it has been no secret during the selection process that member nations wanted the next director to come from a developing nation after having a director from one of Europe's major economies.
The original nine candidates also included contenders from Ghana, Costa Rica, Indonesia, New Zealand, Kenya, Jordan and Korea.