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Brazil's Azevedo wins race to head WTO

Roberto Azevedo becomes first Latin American ,and first representative of BRICS nation, to head Geneva-based trade body.

Last Modified: 08 May 2013 11:34
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Roberto Azevedo, left, beat Mexico's Herminio Blanco, widely seen as the favoured choice of the US [EPA]

Brazil's Roberto Azevedo has won the race to become the next head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), in a move seen as helping to confirm the Latin American nation's growing status as a global power.

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

The Brazilian beat Mexico's Herminio Blanco, widely seen as the favoured choice of the US, in the final round of the contest to succeed France's Pascal Lamy, who steps down on August 31.

The result of the selection process was meant to be secret until a formal announcement on Wednesday, but the Brazilian government confirmed on Tuesday that Azevedo won by a wide margin.

The WTO picks its chief by consensus and the ambassadors of Pakistan, Canada and Sweden had spent weeks gauging countries' views on who was likely to muster the most support.

Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's president, said the election of Azevedo, Brazil's ambassador to the WTO since 2008, could bring about a new world economic order.

"For Brazil it is clear that, given his commitment and experience, he would be able to lead the organisation toward a path of a fairer and more dynamic global economic order," Rousseff said in a statement.

"This is not a victory for Brazil, nor for a group of countries, but for the World Trade Organisation."

Azevedo now faces the tough task of trying to revive the WTO's stalled "Doha Round" of trade liberalisation talks, launched in 2001.

Azevedo's insider status as an experienced negotiator and consensus-builder at the WTO appeared to have clinched his position.

He became Brazil's WTO ambassador after working as a chief litigator in high-profile trade disputes, making him well placed to navigate the system to try to clear the Doha impasse.

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