• Kyodo

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Thai Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi, the next director general of the World Trade Organization, has proposed using specialists drawn from outside the WTO to mediate on knotty trade and nontrade issues facing the world trade body.

Supachai, scheduled to take over the WTO leadership next year, made the proposal in an article featured in a United Nations University publication, entitled “The Role of the World Trade Organization in Global Governance.”

Supachai cited a proposal by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to appoint a “group of eminent persons” to advise the WTO general council on the WTO’s future.

Supachai also noted there is precedent in GATT, the precursor to WTO, to ask “distinguished persons” to report on problems affecting the international trading system at the time.

“We should not preclude the possibility of resorting to such a panel to help us resolve some of the threatened divisions over the pending trade and nontrade issues facing the WTO at present,” he said.

Decisions by the WTO that are binding on member states require a consensus. This means that opposition by a small group of member states can hold up deliberations.

Supachai’s proposal is seen as an attempt to speed up the process of negotiations at WTO by leaving difficult issues in the hands of a group of “wise persons” that are not identified with the opposing camps.

The Thai minister also emphasized the need for the WTO to ensure a “full and effective participation” of developing countries — which constitute the majority of WTO members — in its trade agenda.

This will require, Supachai said, a process of institution and capacity-building in developing countries, such as training of administrators and policy makers, legal reform in areas such as intellectual property, bankruptcy and financial law.

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