Monday, December 20, 2004

Lamy's Got a Gun II

Last week, the former EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy was formally proposed by France as candidate to head the World Trade Organization. (See the Reuters account here.) Despite the official source of the nomination, Lamy, a Socialist who has some history of conflict with the current French government, is in substance the “European” candidate not the “French” one. In nominating him, France was merely discharging its European duty following a prior agreement by the 25 EU members to put him forward as a common EU candidate for the WTO post. As discussed here in “Lamy’s Got a Gun”, in his previous capacity as EU trade commissioner, Lamy once threatened the US with trade sanctions using the following language: “We have a revolver and the finger is on the trigger”. Nonetheless, he is said to be a “friend” of US trade representative Robert Zoellick.

Although no decision is expected before the end of May 2005, with the 25 EU votes already firmly in his column and with the EU countries disposing of considerable means of influence, notably via their individual and collective foreign aid programs, over “developing” countries, the current prospects of Mr. Lamy’s candidacy have to be deemed very good indeed. Whereas, moreover, initial reports had Mr. Lamy facing off against two other candidates, one from Latin America, the Uruguayan Carlos Perez de Castillo, and one from Africa, the Mauritian Jayen Cuttaree, in the meanwhile both an additional Latin American candidate, the Brasilian Luis Felipe de Seixas Correa and another African, the Kenyan Mukhisa Kituyi, have entered the fray. Thus two potential voting blocs that could have weighed heavily against a unified Europe have been conveniently split. It is interesting to note that the nomination of the second Latin American candidate should have been put forward precisely by Brazil: a country that under its current “Workers Party” government of Luis Inacio Lula da Silva has been a major obstacle to the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas and a major proponent of a separate free trade agreement between the Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) and the EU.

An unidentified “European expert”, cited in Le Figaro of 10 December, is, nonetheless, wary of American intentions toward Mr. Lamy. “The United States is more interested in having a marionette as the head of the WTO,” the “expert” is quoted as saying, “It’s the only organization that forces the US to apply international law.” But the ever disinterested EU, a global economic power whose collective GDP exceeds that of the US, could not possibly have an interest in having a self-styled EU hitman as the head of the WTO....