“He’s a typical Brazilian diplomat — old-school. He’s reached the top simply by being the best at what he does,’’ said Berer. “He’s very respectful, very patient and a very good listener as well.’
All those qualities are expected to serve him well as he tackles the thorny issues facing the WTO in a world where countries increasingly are opting for bilateral and regional trade pacts and some have questioned the viability of a multilateral trading system.
Azevêdo served as head of the Brazilian delegation during the Doha Development Round of trade talks, which began in 2001 and stalled in 2008. Aimed at lowering trade barriers worldwide, the negotiations have bogged down over issues such as agriculture subsidies, non-tariff barriers and industrial tariffs with a significant divide between developed nations and the developing world.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said that Azevêdo’s appointment comes at a time when the WTO is at a crossroads. “We are convinced that… Azevêdo will help all the WTO members put the multilateral agenda back on track with the ultimate aim of a successful conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda,’’ he said.
In December, just months after Azevêdo takes the reins at the WTO, the world trade body will hold a ministerial meeting in Bali.
Negotiations leading up to the meeting have been difficult. “Any kind of progress in Bali would be noteworthy,’’ said Berer. One area where he said there is some hope for consensus is in trade facilitation, or measures that help ease the flow of global trade.
“A successful outcome in Bali will send an important signal to the world of the WTO’s crucial role as well as the importance of the multilateral trading system it represents,’’ De Gucht said.