Costa Rica is well-suited to lead the World Trade Organization because it’s a small nation that opted for integration into the global economy to boost domestic growth, said Trade Minister Anabel Gonzalez, the Latin American country’s candidate for WTO director-general.
“My country has gone through a very strong structural-transformation process,” Gonzalez said by phone. “The story of Costa Rica shows that trade is a very powerful instrument for growth and development, that the multilateral system has a strong role to play in leveling the playing field for all countries. I would bring in a strong sense of neutrality.”
The Geneva-based WTO has suffered from its inability to agree on a global trade deal after more than a decade of negotiations. Gonzalez said one of the key challenges it faces is keeping itself relevant and that she’s “cautiously optimistic” the trade arbiter will be able to produce “some deliverables” at its ministerial meeting in December.
“The most important challenge for the WTO is to continue to support the growth in trade,” she said in the Jan. 21 interview. “Half of aggregate trade flows originate in developing countries. We need to integrate more countries into the world economy.”
Gonzalez said her professional career in both the private and public sectors and experience in the Uruguay Round of trade talks qualify her for the WTO’s top job. She is up against candidates from Brazil, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, South Korea, Mexico and New Zealand to succeed Pascal Lamy when his term ends on Aug. 31.
The WTO has had only one head from a developing country since it was created in 1995 and no women have ever competed for the four-year job. Gonzalez, 49, is one of three female candidates.