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Tuesday, May 18, 1999 Published at 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK

Business: The Economy

WTO race gets personal

Dr Supachai says his rival is out to tarnish his image

One of the two candidates for Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, the Thai Deputy Prime Minister, Supachai Panitchpakdi, has launched a strong, personal attack on his rival, the former prime minister of New Zealand, Michael Moore.

World trade wars
After a meeting in Geneva on Thursday at which WTO officials again failed to agree on who should get the job, Dr Supachai accused Mr Moore of running a smear campaign against him.

"Moore's behavior is not acceptable, he compared our country unfavourably with his and lied by accusing me of travelling in an expensive car with a huge entourage, while he leads a simple life," he said after returning to Bangkok from Geneva.

Last week, in an interview with Television New Zealand, Mr Moore said that his opponent for the WTO post travelled around "in a fleet of Mercedes Benzes."

Private secretaries and valets

[ image: Mr Moore says he always travels by taxi]
Mr Moore says he always travels by taxi
"I'm not complaining, we're Kiwis. We do it our way and we do it in a modest way, and there are those who find that quite touching and attractive that there are still people on earth who don't travel with private secretaries and valets," he said.

Dr Suapachai is refusing to withdraw from the race, saying there was still a good chance he could win.

But WTO officials say Mr Moore is best-placed to be their new Director-General.

Dr Supachai's camp was further enraged last week when the chairman of the WTO's governing General Council, Ali Mchumo of Tanzania, formally proposed to appoint Mr Moore.

Mr Mchumo says that the New Zealander has a slight lead of 62-59 among member states, but Dr Supachai's supporters bitterly dispute this.

Broken promises

They say the US, which has always said it favours Mr Moore, has broken promises it gave not to block Dr Supachai's appointment.

The WTO leadership is traditionally chosen by consensus, but this time it has proved impossible to build sparking talk amongst members of a crisis situation.

On Thursday, emergency talks aimed at resolving the increasingly bitter battle broke up with no agreement in sight.

After five hours of heated discussions, the only thing the divided organisation could agree on was that it was time to take a few days off for reflection.

With WTO leadership it has been virtually paralysed and unable to carry out its role mediating and adjudicating in the world's numerous trade disputes.

On Friday a group of Dr Supachai's supporters, led by the chief of a parliamentary foreign affairs committee, laid a wreath outside the US embassy to protest against what they say is America's unfair treatment of their candidate.

On it was a note reading: "For Ugly Americans - stop your dirty tricks"

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