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What Canada wants in the next World Trade Organization chief

The race is on to replace WTO director-general Pascal Lamy

Denis Balibouse/Reuters

The race to replace France's Pascal Lamy as head of the World Trade Organization is about to get much tighter.

This month the 159 member-countries of the WTO will narrow the field to five candidates. A final candidate is slated to be identified by the end of May to replace Mr. Lamy, who has led the organization since 2005. Each country gets a single vote in each of three voting rounds.

The leadership race comes as the WTO struggles to restart stalled global free trade negotiations begun in 2001 and known as the Doha Round, named for the city in which the negotiations were launched.

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So far, the Canadian government isn't saying who it wants in the post. But it is detailing for the first time what it wants from the next WTO director-general.

Trade Minister Ed Fast laid out an agenda Monday for Mr. Lamy's successor. Ottawa wants someone who will be a tough trade cop who will fight against tariff and non-tariff protectionism, a defender of the rules-based trading system, and someone willing to push for global free trade in services (even that means leaving some recalcitrant members behind).

"Canada will support the selection of a candidate who can marshal common cause against the protectionism that remains a toxic threat to the global economic recovery," Mr. Fast said. "The successful candidate must be a champion in the fight against tariff and non-tariff barriers around the world."

Mr. Fast said the next WTO head will have to re-establish the dominance of the WTO, which has lost influence after the Doha round of multilateral talks stalled and countries pursued regional free trade deals.

"In light of the continued impasse in the Doha Round, Canada has pursued an aggressive bilateral and regional trade agenda, as have many other WTO members," Mr. Fast pointed out in a statement.

"The next director-general must possess a clear plan to re-establish the WTO as an institution that can credibly advance multilateral trade liberalization efforts in the best interests of all of its members."

So far, Mr. Fast has met seven of the nine people vying for the job, including candidates from Mexico, New Zealand, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ghana, South Korea, Kenya, Jordan and Indonesia.

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About the Author
National Business Correspondent

Barrie McKenna is correspondent and columnist in The Globe and Mail's Ottawa bureau. From 1997 until 2010, he covered Washington from The Globe's bureau in the U.S. capital. During his U.S. posting, he traveled widely, filing stories from more than 30 states. Mr. McKenna has also been a frequent visitor to Japan and South Korea on reporting assignments. More

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