By Oscar Esparza-Vargas*
The Government of Mexico is promoting the candidacy of Dr. Jesús Seade Kuri for director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), replacing the Brazilian Roberto Azevêdo, who made a personal decision to end his term in August next year, one year before envisaged. This decision is testimony to Mexico’s will to strengthen the multilateral trading system for the benefit of all its members, under the premise that the international trade is a very important factor to support the economic growth and development of the countries.
The WTO is essential for global economic governance. With its predecessor, the GATT, it has been central for the world’s trade and economic development over the past seven decades. A cornerstone of the multilateral trading system, its proper functioning is key to give certainty in the context of increasing adversity. A revitalized, strong, inclusive, and functional WTO is needed to meet the global challenges of the pandemic and bring economic recovery for all. This will only come from the collective will of its members, supported by a constructive leadership with proven experience in major global negotiations.
The WTO is currently facing three major challenges: 1) To reaffirm its relevance given the limited progress made in negotiations, the paralysis of its Appellate Body, and the urgent need to modernize the administration of existing agreements; 2) To promote the traditional issues of trade negotiation, such as fisheries and agriculture, and to revitalize the 21st century economy issues. This enhancement should fully take into account e-commerce and the development of an ambitious sustainable vision. It is necessary to re-establish a functional dispute settlement mechanism, and to improve monitoring of compliance; 3) In the short-term, to assuage the economic impact of the pandemic, the WTO must encourage its members to limit barriers that restrict the flow of goods, and to take measures that contribute to the recovery of economic activity. At the same time, members should follow international protocols to preserve public health at the global level.
Dr. Jesús Seade has extensive experience as a negotiator and facilitator in international trade at the highest level. Moreover, he has a comprehensive career and ties in the four corners of the world. For these reasons, Mexico nominates him as the ideal candidate to head the WTO at this crucial moment.
The Mexican candidate has leadership experience in top multilateral organizations, such as the GATT and the WTO itself. He knows the origin and purposes of the Organization he seeks to lead. As Mexican Ambassador to the GATT he was a central part of the Uruguay Round, the series of foundational WTO negotiations. Afterwards, he was appointed by consensus of the members to serve as Deputy Director General of the GATT and later of WTO, the Organization he helped to create. His work in these three positions gives him a unique set of experience in reaching trade agreements on a global scale. His knowledge of several nations’ needs and challenges is strengthened by his experience as a high-level official of both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Most recently, Dr. Seade served as Chief Negotiator of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Under complex circumstances, he managed to negotiate an agreement between the Governments of the three countries, contributing to build bridges between the various political forces to generate much needed consensus. He successfully integrated contrasting economic dynamics and different political visions on trade into the agreement and, as a result, these countries reached common positions and advantageous situations for the various actors in the political, business, labour, and union spheres.
Dr. Seade’s career in multilateral organizations is complemented by his extensive academic career. He has had different roles across universities in China, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Brazil and Mexico. Additionally, Dr. Seade has wide-ranging experience in addressing financial and commercial issues in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. His professional career has given him a deep understanding of the international trading system’s main challenges.
Dr. Seade, is a graduate from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, has a Doctorate and Master’s in Economics from the Oxford University, United Kingdom and speaks the WTO’s official languages -Spanish, English and French-, and has a fluent command of Portuguese, conversational German, and elementary Mandarin.
The Government of Mexico considers that the global trajectory, experience and capacity of Dr. Seade make him the ideal profile for such responsibility.
Mexico has a long tradition of supporting the international multilateral system. Dr. Seade’s candidacy reaffirms this multilateralism conviction, which is reflected in all the organizations of which our country is a member. Mexico will occupy a seat as a non-permanent member in the United Nations Security Council, as well as in the Economic and Social Council. Currently, Mexico chairs the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and is an active member of the Pacific Alliance.
Likewise, Mexico is a very active part of international forums of the highest level such as the G-20, the great APEC, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the MIKTA group, and a founding member of the WTO. Mexico has free trade agreements with more than fifty countries. As a highly diversified economy, Mexico has a complex and powerful export sector.
Last but not least, it is important to highlight the fact that, in virtue of its geographical position, Mexico belongs to several regions: we are a Latin American country, together with USA and Canada we comprise the North American region and, at the same time, we are the biggest Caribbean country and share with this region common difficulties and challenges.
Mexico proudly calls itself a Caribbean country that has worked intensely to accomplish its role as a sibling and neighbor to become a close and reliable partner of the Eastern Caribbean States. Mexico has advocated and supported progress and development for countries of this region in many fields, including agriculture, health, education and culture, among others. The important infrastructure projects financed by Mexico in these countries which have benefited thousands of people deserve a special place, demonstrating that it is a reliable partner and an important cooperating country for the region.
Based on this vision, Mexico presents the candidacy of Dr. Jesús Seade, a man whose global experience and relevance would help to build a strong, inclusive and open multilateral trading system. It would be an honour for him to rejoin efforts with the entire WTO membership.
All this elements allow Mexico to ask the Governments of the Eastern Caribbean States to back this important candidacy. At the same time, we highly thank for the support that we have already received.
* Ambassador of Mexico to the Eastern Caribbean States with residence in Saint Lucia