World Trade Organisation's new boss will face an in-tray filled with problems

From Global development | The Guardian Sat Jan 12 2013, 19:05:53

This month, the Geneva-based trade body will start the hunt for a new director general, but is the decline of globalisation making it irrelevant?

At an elegant 1920s building set in a lush park on the shore of Lake Geneva this month, nine senior global politicians - six men and three women - will be attending an extraordinary job interview. The World Trade Organisation, once the hated target of anarchists and anti-globalisation protesters furious about unfair rules and backroom deals that locked poor countries out of the world's markets, is seeking a new director general.

Yet few angry campaigners are expected to throng the centre of Geneva on 29-31 January, as the candidates file into the WTO's headquarters to set out their vision for the future of the global marketplace. More than five years into the financial and economic crisis, the once-hot topic of "globalisation" is no longer where the action is.

"The WTO has lost an incredible amount of sex appeal," says Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz, chief executive of the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, a Geneva-based thinktank.

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