Mexico seeks Jamaica’s backing in bid for WTO’s top post

THE Government of Mexico is seeking Jamaica’s support as it bids for its Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Jess Seade to become the next director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Seade, who was Mexico’s chief negotiator in the trilateral talks that led to the signing of the latest United States-Mexico-Canada agreement, is one of four candidates who have been nominated so far to be the successor to Brazilian Roberto Azevdo who announced that he would leave his post a year early due to personal reasons.

The other candidates are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh of Egypt, and Tudor Ulianovschi of Moldova. More candidates, including at least one European, are expected to be nominated before the closing date of July 8.

On June 8, the WTO began its selection process for a new director-general and, having announced that it is putting forward a candidate, Mexico has sent Jamaica an official diplomatic note seeking the backing of the Andrew Holness-led Administration.

“He is a very strong candidate, first of all. He is a candidate with a lot of experience, and he has a knowledge of the field of trade for the past 35 years,” Mexican Ambassador to Jamaica Juan Jos Gonzlez Mijares told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“He was a former deputy director-general of the World Trade Organization and he has worked extensively with all the regions of the world. It means that he is a person who has the energy and the experience as negotiator, and a broker for the different regions of the world in the trade agenda,” said Ambassador Mijares.

He argued that Seade would be the right man to lead the WTO at this time when the world is struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Ambassador Mijares, the Mexican candidate is well aware of the trade issues facing developing states such as Jamaica, and has already worked well in drafting free trade agreements for Mexico.

“He has a real important understanding of the dynamics and the views of the less developed countries, and I think in that respect he is a person who can be a very good broker in order to have an equilibrium in that,” declared Ambassador Mijares.

According to the ambassador, having submitted the diplomatic note, the next move for the Mexican Government is to have talks with Jamaican Government officials.

“In the upcoming days I will have the chance, perhaps, to have a video conference with Dr Seade and the authorities in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. That would be the best way for Jamaica to get to know the priorities of the candidate and for the candidate to get to know the priorities of Jamaica and the Caribbean in terms of trade,” added Ambassador Mijares.

Seade worked at the International Monetary Fund as a senior advisor and was responsible for managing its policies on the financial crises in Argentina, Turkey and Brazil,.

He was also responsible for negotiating debt relief for 15 high-debt African countries while he was principal economist at the World Bank. At both organisations, Seade led technical assistance missions for more than 50 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.

The jostle for the next WTO head is not expected to be easy and there will be hard bargaining among member states for their preferred candidates.

The nationality of the director-general is often taken as a signal of the future direction of the WTO at a time when there is sharp disagreement over the future of the organisation, given the seeming antipathy by the Donald Trump Administration in the US towards the multilateral trading regime.

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