Brazil's Azevedo to be next WTO director-general

Brazil's Roberto Azevedo Brazil's Roberto Azevedo has won the race to become the next chief of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), after the three facilitators among the heads of delegations recommended that the WTO general council meeting on 14 May approve Azevedo as the new director-general.

The three facilitators, ambassadors of Pakistan, Canada and Sweden had spent weeks gauging countries' views on who was likely to muster the most support.

Azevedo, 55, becomes the first person from South America and the first representative of a BRICS nation to head the Geneva-based trade body since its inception in 1995.

The facilitators recommended the Brazilian ambassador's name as Azevedo was seen as the candidate who can gain consensus approval of WTO members.

Azevedo's selection is also widely seen as helping to confirm the Latin American nation's growing status as a global power.

Azevedo, who was widely expected to act neutrally and be a catalyst in pushing ahead the stalled Doha Round of talks, was also one of the two candidates that India had backed among the nine contenders fighting for the top post.

His developing country background is expected to make Azevedo more sympathetic to the needs of poorer members in a global trade arena dominated by developed countries.

While India had also backed Indonesian trade minister Mari Elka Pangetsu for the post, she had dropped out in the penultimate round.

Azevedo and Mexico's Heremino Blanco, strongly backed by the US, were the final two candidates in the race.

''He is assuming office at a crucial juncture as there is considerable expectations from the December Bali Ministerial Conference,'' commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma said in a statement today.

Although Azevedo enjoys wider support from WTO member countries, the extent to which he can influence results of Doha Round trade talks remains to be seen.