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Brazil confirms Azevedo to be new WTO chief

Brazilian diplomat Roberto Carvalho de Azevedo has been elected the new director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Brazilian authorities announced Tuesday.

The WTO is expected to make the official announcement Wednesday, but Brazil's Foreign Ministry confirmed Azebedo's victory in the election, taking at least 93 votes, more than the 80 necessary to win.

Azevedo, 55, was born in Salvador, Bahia state, and graduated in Electrical Engineering at the Brasilia University (UnB). He is a career diplomat, having joined Brazil's Foreign Ministry in 1983.

He has served as Brazil's permanent representative to the WTO since 2008 and was his country's lead negotiator to the Doha Development Round, talks that have been suspended for years. He also worked in Brazil's litigations against the U.S. over cotton subsidies and against the European Union over sugar subsidies.

Azevedo had been short-listed for the WTO post along with Mexico's Herminio Blanco, an experienced negotiator who led the Mexican delegation to the North American Free Trade Agreement ( NAFTA) talks and also served as his country's Trade Minister.

The Brazilian diplomat has the reputation of always seeking consensus, a necessary ability at the WTO, where the needs and opinions of 159 members have to be taken into consideration.

During his candidacy to the post, Azevedo said that, if elected, he would focus on resuming the Doha Development Round and strengthening multilateralism in the institution.

The first Latin American elected to the WTO directorship, Azevedo had the support of the BRICS bloc of emerging economies and the Portuguese-speaking countries, as well as countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa. His competitor for the job, Blanco, meanwhile, had the backing of the U.S. and the EU, as well as several other countries.

Azevedo will take over as director-general on Aug. 31, replacing Pascal Lamy, who is stepping down after two consecutive terms as WTO chief. He will serve a four-year term and can be reelected.

The Brazilian press highlighted the importance of a Brazilian diplomat heading one of the world's most important multilateral organizations, and also stressed Azevedo's previous work in the WTO.

Brazilian authorities have also commented on Azevedo's victory.

Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota, who campaigned, along with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, for Azevedo to win the post, called the election "a victory for Brazil."

Trade Minister Fernando Pimentel also praised Azevedo, saying " I think it is a good outcome for Brazil, for the country's image, which has qualified personnel, but it is even better for the WTO, because Azevedo was indeed the best candidate."

[Source: Xinhua, Rios de Janeiro, 07May13]

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