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WTO set to pick new leader amid discussion deadlock

The World Trade Organisation is close to choosing its next leader in a final round pitting Brazil against Mexico, with the winner facing the tough task of restoring the clout of global commerce’s rule-setting body.

Brazil’s WTO ambassador Roberto Azevedo and his rival Herminio Blanco, Mexico’s former trade minister, are expected to learn as early as Tuesday whether they have won a contest that is seen as too close to call.

All concerned are keenly aware that the successor to two-term director general Pascal Lamy from France must act fast to revive the WTO’s moribund global trade talks. Both men have pitched a similar vision for a negotiating process which they say needs overhauling.

‘The multilateral trading system is weakened by a complete paralysis in the negotiations,’ Azevedo told AFP, explaining it was time to ‘unclog the system’.

Blanco, meanwhile, said it was time to reboot the 159-nation WTO.

‘The main challenge is the ‘W’ in ‘WTO’,’ he told AFP, underlining that the logjam had pushed members into negotiating bilateral and regional deals.

‘You have to transfer this energy back to Geneva,’ where the WTO is based, to prove the point and reach of the organisation, he said.
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