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Wednesday, May 19, 1999 Published at 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK


Business: The Economy

In profile: Mike Moore

Mike Moore: "I prefer to take a taxi."

The former New Zealand premier Mike Moore is seen by many as the frontrunner in the race for the top job at the World Trade Organisation.

World trade wars
The 50-year-old comes from a strong trade union background and is a passionate supporter of free trade, but also an advocate for underprivileged and less powerful smaller states.

A social democrat from the liberal reformist wing of New Zealand's Labor Party, he has been involved in trade and foreign policy issues for many years.

As trade minister he helped to transform New Zealand from a protectionist backwater into a free-market economy.

US support

His antipodean enthusiasm for cutting agricultural subsidies may prove a trifle alarming to some countries.

But the United States, South America, and powerful European Union nations including France and Germany are rallying for the Kiwi.

US multi-national companies seem to favour the free-marketeer image of the New Zealander more than the pro-developing world image of his main opponent, Thai deputy prime minister Supachai Panitchpakdi.

The US support for Mr Moore has infuriated Thailand - both the government and the people - which considers itself a close ally of Washington.

Mr Moore has a natural instinct for politics and the kind of communication skills that Dr Supachai allegedly sometimes lacks.

The WTO job undoubtedly needs someone with people skills who can broker compromises and knock heads together when necessary.

But the Kiwi, sometimes dubbed ''Mad Mike,'' is perhaps not an ideal candidate either.

One New Zealand newspaper said he was treated by his parliamentary colleagues with a ''confusing mixture of amusement and respect".

Mudslinging tactics

Some of his campaigning tactics have also enraged his opponents.

In an interview with Television New Zealand, he said that Dr Supachai's party travelled around in a fleet of Mercedes Benz while his own aides relied on humble taxis.

Mr Moore added mischievously: "We were staying in a hotel where we could touch both walls.

"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."





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