Thanks to the efforts of leading WTO scholars and EUI professors Bernard Hoekman and Petros Mavroidis, today we have a better view of the perspectives and positions of seven of the nine candidates for Director-General of the WTO. Their e-book Race for the WTP Director General job: Seven candidates speak, available at http://www.voxeu.org/content/race-wto-director-general-seven-candidates-speak, begins with a useful history and overview of the selection process.
Korea's Taeho Bark recommends strengthening the WTO's relationship with regional and multilateral development banks. He is conservative about the WTO getting involved in the 21st century agenda, including food security, natural resources and water management, emphasizing the importance of the WTO "staying within the boundaries of its mandate as a trade organization." At the same time, he stresses the importance of communication with civil society.
Anabel Gonzalez of Costa Rica is wishy-washy about the 21st century agenda. On the one hand, she makes the wonderful statement that "the WTO's centrality in the world trading system today requires that no topic of relevance to the world economy be taboo for the house of trade." On the other hand, she fudges on whether to get with it now, or a la Lamy, try to complete Doha first and then deal with the subjects that are truly relevant. Gonalez recognizes that the WTO system is "robust" and, refreshingly, thus distinguishes herself from those who predict doom if Doha dies (as it will, in reality).
Kiwi Tim Groser is the consummate trade insider neo-liberal candidate-hasn't heard that Washington Consensus is in trouble. No vision beyond Doha. Fear-mongering that if the WTO doesn't work as a negotiating forum even dispute settlement won't maintain its vitality.
A very thoughtful view from Jordanian Ahmed Hindawi. He emphasizes importance of capacity building for developing countries. He alone of the candidates places emphasis on professionalizing the WTO as an institution, creating clear goals, standards for good governance, and accountability, including to "outside" stakeholders. On a similar note, HIndawi makes a pitch for greater transparency and outreach.
The candidate from Ghana, Alan Kyermaten, endorses flexibility, a WTO a multiples vitesses, getting away from the "single undertaking" orthodoxy or straightjacket. "The WTO should not be tied forever to 'One Big Round' or always to 'hard law' solutions." Kyermaten also suggests: "There is ... a need for coherence between trade policies and other policies such as macroeconomic, fiscal, agricultural and social policies. This contrasts with Bark's notion of "clear boundaries" of the WTO as a trade organization.
Amina Mohamed is, overall, the most far-seeing of the candidates. She strongly rejects the view that just because Doha is in trouble WTO not in good shape, pointing to the dispute settlement system as a great success of global governance. She doesn't buy the Lamy head-in-the-sand view that we have to invest all our energies into closing Doha, an outdated trade agenda, before talking about the real 21st century agenda. Thus, she boldy argues for refocusing the current negotiations, and "addressing the major global challenges of climate change, food security, intellectual property rights and piracy among others." On two of these issues, climate change and food security, she gives specifics. Mohamed also reminds us that she has the big picture of global governance, having worked "in other areas of governance: environmental protection, constitution drafting, targeted at domestic conflict and dispute resolution in a multi-ethnic society; poverty reduction; diplomacy and foreign policy."
The Indonesian candidate Mari Pangestu thankfully also doesn't buy the idea that the vitality of the WTO should be judged by Doha. She argues that "opening up trade must be accompanied by complementary policies to ensure that the benefits will be more equally shared and the downside risks for sectors or groups within the country are managed." Maybe the relationship between equality and gains from trade is even tighter than she suggests (read Joe Stiglitz on equality and growth), but at least here is a candidate that talks explicitly about equality.
Even if they differ in the degree of compromise with the old guard, the three women from the South really get the challenges of the 21st century. And then there is the mystery of why the two guys from the southern Western Hemisphere didn't submit to the volume. I've tweeted Roberto Azevedo about that, and maybe I'll get to ask Herminio Blanco tomorrow, when I attend his talk in NYC. Much gratitude to Bernie and Petros for putting this together-a real contribution to the transparency of the process.