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Tuesday, June 29, 1999 Published at 06:29 GMT 07:29 UK

Business: The Economy

WTO job share plan

The leadership crisis comes at a busy time for the WTO

There is growing support for a proposal that the rivals for the leadership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) both get the job.

World trade wars
The suggestion is that Mike Moore, a former New Zealand prime minister, and Supachai Panitchpakdi, Thailand's deputy premier, hold the job consecutively.

The WTO has been unable to reach a consensus on whether Mr Supachai or Mr Moore should become director general.

[ image: Former New Zealand PM Mike Moore]
Former New Zealand PM Mike Moore
The post to lead the 134 nation grouping has been open since Renato Ruggiero retired in April.

Another proposal put forward - and supported by Mr Supachai - has been for a vote of members.

But this has been flatly rejected by the US and other countries who want to follow the WTO's consensus approach.

The new proposal is for the normal four year term to be extended to allow both candidates to serve three years each.

[ image: Thailand's deputy PM has supported a vote]
Thailand's deputy PM has supported a vote
Trade wars

The suggestion appears to be gaining some support among trade ministers at a Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Auckland, New Zealand.

The host country's trade minister Lockwood Smith said on Tuesday it was worthy of discussion.

"It's something that obviously has been put up in good faith and I'm sure will be explored with the prospective parties," said Mr Smith.

"If there's some way like that that can break the impasse then that would be positive," he added.

Australian Trade Minister Tim Fischer, reported to be behind the compromise proposal, said: "No one country can claim the initiative.

"Everyone's trying various formulas to look at breaking the impasse."


Mr Supachai said on Sunday the issue needed to be resolved before the WTO's Third Ministerial Conference in Seattle in November to kick off the next round of trade talks.

The leadership crisis at the WTO has come at a bad time for the organisation as a series of trade wars between the US and Europe grows.

The organisation, established with the aim of resolving trade disputes through negotiations, has had to approve tit-for-tat tarrifs imposed by the US on European goods in disputes over bananas and beef.

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