Key delegations discussing DG choice compromise

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 7 July -- Key delegations on both sides of the WTO leadership controversy may be favourable to ending the controversy by agreeing to a compromise of maximum three year terms each, in succession, to the two contestants, if such a compromise in all details could be agreed upon before the end of July.

This picture is emerging after some consultations, last week and this week, among delegations in the light of some compromise ideas that emerged at the recent APEC trade ministers meeting in Auckland.

The purported conditions set by New Zealand's Mike Moore -- that since he had the support of 70 countries (as assessed by council chair Ali Mchumo) he should get the post first, and he should get a 4-year term and extendable if the negotiations to be launched go beyond -- have not gone well with several of the key countries supporting Supachai.

Any compromise on terms being publicly demanded by Moore or any of his supporters would seem to be a 'non-starter'.

But there is some reason to think that though the US initially last week had insisted on Moore being elected and getting a 4- year term, on some rethinking, even the United States which has been backing and pushing Moore, is discouraging such talk, and has been telling some Supachai supporters not to go by press statements of candidates.

Australia, which aired the idea of splitting the term and giving the two candidates each a chance in succession, in talks on the sidelines of the APEC meeting, has been reportedly holding consultations here with the Supachai supporters and with the US and Moore supporters, and at an informal meeting Wednesday with all sides.

But some of the participants have the impression that the Australian move has been made at the instance of contacts between prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand, with perhaps some commitment from Australia to give Moore the job first.

Last week, at a small group of Supachai supporters (minus the ASEAN), the Australian delegation here would appear to have explained the proposal that emerged at Auckland, but said that it had no instructions from Canberra to pursue it.

But at a wider gathering of Supachai supporters, later in the day, participants got the impression that Australia and New Zealand governments have mooted the idea after contacts at the highest level, and Australia was trying to push it.

Australia would appear to have promoted the compromise, and pushed for accepting Moore being chosen first, arguing (to Supachai supporters, critical of Moore's public statements and demands) that it did not matter who took the post first, and that Supachai supporters should look at it in terms of "half a loaf being better than no loaf", and that developing countries should be happy that at least afterwards they would have a developing country person as a Director-General.

This argument apparently did not sit well with some of them.

Among the participants at that meeting, Japan would appear to have said that it was too early (for that meeting) to support the Australian move before awaiting the details and reactions of everyone. Ireland agreed that flexibility was important, but it should be mutual - implying that neither of the candidates should lay down terms.

Some of the Latin American delegations said that any compromise should be for a 4-year term to be split between the two candidates, but that very reluctantly they could consider a 3- year term for each.

But beyond that (if Moore's idea of a 4-year term for each) would mean that chances of Latin America or Africa getting the post would be put off for 8 years at least, and that would be unacceptable.

In some further consultations Wednesday, it would appear that at least two countries (who had told the General Council chair that they could go along with his proposal to name Moore) indicated that there was a need to put a time-limit to the current process. Either they should conclude the process by naming a DG before the end of July, or decide that the process had failed, and start a new one.

Several others also said that they did not want to be faced with a situation of considering and agreeing to the compromise of electing the two candidates in turn, and then find themselves facing other differences on other details - like the term, who should take the job first etc etc.

Bangladesh which originally floated at a General Council meeting this idea of the two candidates getting a 3-year term each in succession, is now said to be holding consultations to work out the details and see if it would be acceptable to all sides. (SUNS4472)

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

[c] 1999, SUNS - All rights reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or posted to any system or service without specific permission from SUNS. This limitation includes incorporation into a database, distribution via Usenet News, bulletin board systems, mailing lists, print media or broadcast. For information about reproduction or multi-user subscriptions please contact < >