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Thai Economist Named To Head UN Trade Body

Thai Economist Named To Head UN Trade Body Seeking To Integrate Poorer Nations

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has nominated the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Supachai Panitchpakdi, to head the United Nations agency that for the past 40 years has sought to promote the development-friendly integration of developing countries into the world economy.

If approved by the General Assembly, Mr. Supachai, a former Thai central banker and deputy prime minister who is a strong advocate of a fair deal in globalization for poorer nations, will succeed Rubens Ricupero of Brazil, who left last September as Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Since then, Carlos Fortin of Chile has acted as Officer-in-Charge.

"I am absolutely delighted that Supachai Panitchpakdi has agreed," Mr. Annan said in a statement issued by his spokesman.

"Dr. Supachai has done an outstanding job as Director-General of the World Trade Organization, particularly in pushing forward the very difficult process of the Doha round, on which rest many of the hopes for economic progress in developing countries and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals," he added, referring to the targets of halving many of the world's ills, such as hunger and poverty by 2015.

In his current role, Mr. Supachai was particularly disappointed at the collapse in 2003 of a major ministerial conference in Cancun, Mexico, that was meant to advance the Doha Development Agenda – adopted in 2001 in the Qatari capital of Doha in an effort to achieve freer trade worldwide.

If Doha fails, he said then, the losers will be the poor of the world. The Cancun talks ran aground over issues ranging from speedy elimination of agricultural subsidies by rich countries that undercut farmers in the world's poorest nations to the so-called Singapore issues – trade and investment, competition policy, transparency in government procurement – which developing nations felt might interfere with their domestic policies.

UNCTAD has been the focal point within the UN for the integrated treatment of trade and development and related issues in the areas of investment, finance, technology, enterprise development and sustainable development.

It carries out three key functions: as a forum for intergovernmental deliberations, supported by discussions with experts and exchanges of experience, aimed at consensus building; in research, policy analysis and data collection for the debates of government representatives and experts; and in providing technical assistance tailored to the specific requirements of developing countries, with special attention to the needs of the least developed countries and economies in transition.

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