The Next Head of the WTO

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Changes are ahead for the infamous World Trade Organization (WTO), as Director-General Pascal Lamy will be stepping down in August of this year. Lamy has been the head of the organization since 2005, and has also served as the chairman of its Trade Negotiations Committee. Now, at the end of two consecutive terms, a host of nine candidates are vying to succeed Lamy as the WTO’s most prominent figure. Will any of them steer the bureaucratic organization in different direction?

During his eight years at the helm, Lamy was the face of the WTO. He has personified much of the corruption that has become synonymous with it. This isn’t to say that Lamy, whose extensive resume also includes being President of the European Commission, is himself a corrupt man–it simply means that he never utilized his key role in the WTO to stifle the dubious nature of the organization.

The WTO is regularly accused of having compromised interests when it rules on global trade issues. The organization itself is constructed as a government body, but it conducts itself like a corporation. The primary objective of the WTO is to facilitate and increase unrestricted global trade, a goal that often doesn’t take into account the general welfare of the nations involved. The United States has been on the receiving end of several questionable WTO judgments, often being forced to accept unwanted imports. Among these include uninspected and potentially tainted Chinese chicken and orange juice that Brazilian producers were dumping into our markets.

Lamy has been a member of the French Socialist party for most of his adult life. Perhaps his ideology involves a vision of a society where unbridled free trade translates to peaceful, global equality. But it is more likely that he has operated under the rule of the large corporations that profit from free trade agreements. Multinationals seem to be the true concern of the WTO, and Lamy has almost certainly endorsed this principle. As the rich have gotten richer, the rest of the world has suffered, and Lamy’s reputation has been attached to the corrupt organization that enables that movement.

The group of candidates in line for Lamy’s position are a varied bunch. Many experts believe that, because the WTO has recently had both and Asian and a European chief, this term will go to a candidate from Africa. Ghana’s former trade minister Alan Kyerematen is a frontrunner for the job, having served as a trade advisor for the UN Economic Commission for Africa. Whether he or one of the other contenders win the position, it is the hope of many nations that a change in the status quo occurs within the WTO‘s modus operandi. One of those hopeful nations is the United States. At this point, however, it’s become apparent that the U.S. would almost certainly fare better without any WTO affiliation whatsoever.

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