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Thursday, July 22, 1999 Published at 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK

Business: The Economy

WTO approves power-share deal

Mike Moore is to be the new head of the WTO - initially

The World Trade Organisation has officially appointed former New Zealand prime minister Mike Moore as director-general.

World trade wars
Mr Moore will head up the WTO in a unique power-sharing scheme with Thailand's deputy prime minister, Supachai Panitchpakdi.

The 134-nation WTO's general council approved the new leaders after months without a head as the appointment was held up due to deadlock between supporters of the two candidates.

Mr Moore will head the WTO for three years, when he will be replaced by Mr Supachai.

[ image: Mr Supachai will head the WTO from 2002]
Mr Supachai will head the WTO from 2002
"We have consensus on the basic question of a split term with Mr Moore serving first and Supachai second," said Bangladeshi Ambassador Istekhar Chowdhury, who first proposed the compromise plan which was taken up actively by Australia.

The US Trade Representative, Rita Hayes, said the deal showed the power of consensus building at the WTO, which regulates world trade and is responsible for maintaining the momentum of trade liberalisation.

Prior to the joint-leadership agreeement, the WTO had been unable to agree on a candidate to replace Renato Ruggiero, who left in April.

Mr Supachai was able to count on the votes of Japan and Asian countries, while Mr Moore had the backing of the United States and many Latin American countries.

The selection row was particularly bitter, with each side accusing the other of dirty tricks, and neither side prepared to drop its candidate despite the deadlock.

The delay has damaged preparations for the next round of the world trade talks, due to start in Seattle in November, where agreement will be sought on preparing the ground for opening wider global markets for goods and services.

Mr Moore will have the task of setting the agenda for the talks, which are expected to last more than three years - leaving Mr Supachai to steer through any agreements reached.

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