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Friday, July 16, 1999 Published at 07:32 GMT 08:32 UK

Business: The Economy

Move to break WTO deadlock

Mr Supachai has agreed to let Mr Moore head the WTO first

The deadlock over who will be the next head of the World Trade Organisation could soon be broken.

World trade wars
Thailand has agreed to let its candidate, the Deputy Prime Minister, Supachai Panitchpakdi, take charge for the second half of a proposed job-sharing plan.

This would allow the former New Zealand premier, Mike Moore, to be first in a solution which would give each man three years at the helm.

Free hand required

He has been unable to overcome strong Asian support for Mr Supachai to get the job.

The deal now depends on how much of a free hand Mr Supachai is given during his time in office.

"In serving the second term, we want an agreement that Dr Supachai must be appointed to the position unconditionally," Thai Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan told a news conference.

"Before this announcement, the government has gone through the process of sounding out all of our supporters," Mr Surin said. "All of them, especially ASEAN (the South-East Asia economic grouping) wanted to end the deadlock and agreed on this flexible stance of the Thai government."

Call to change selection process

But he said it had become clear the drawn-out selection process should be changed, and there would be a proposal to review it.

The plan to give each candidate three years as WTO director-general was put forward by Australia after it became clear that neither would be able to defeat the other to win a traditional four-year term.

Mr Moore was strongly backed by the United States, most European countries and Latin America. Mr Supachai was supported by Japan and the rest of Asia.

Because the decision is traditionally reached by consensus, a vote was ruled out. Supporters of neither man were ready to withdraw their candidate in favour of the other.

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