* Candidate Azevedo says able to build bridges at WTO
* Brazil aims to increase diplomatic clout with candidacy
* Partners criticize Brazil for raising tariffs
By Alonso Soto
BRASILIA, Jan 10 The World Trade Organization
needs Brazil's diplomatic and consensus-building skills to bring
global trade talks back to life, Roberto Azevedo, the South
American nation's candidate to head the trade club, said on
Azevedo, an experienced negotiator who has represented
Brazil at the WTO, is running against eight other candidates to
lead an organization struggling to remain relevant after
repeated failures to reform world trade rules.
"Brazil's capacity to negotiate and strengthen the
multilateral system is something that is favored by everybody at
the WTO," Azevedo said in a press briefing in Brasilia. "The
fact that I come from Brazil, a country with a long diplomatic
history, is a positive, it will help me."
Brazil has emerged as an economic powerhouse in the last
decade, which has increased its clout in global organizations
like the International Monetary Fund and United Nations. The
country's rise as a BRICS nation has helped its reputation as a
bridge-builder between rich and developing nations.
However, Brazil ruffled the feathers of some WTO members
after it hiked duties on dozens of imported products from cars
to glass and iron pipes to fend off competition from foreign
producers in places like China - also a member of the BRICS
group of emerging economies that includes Russia, South Africa
Brazilian efforts led by Azevedo to discuss the impact of
currency movements on global trade at the WTO also rubbed some
countries the wrong way.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff blames the flood of cheap
money coming from developed nations for devastating l ocal
industries in Brazil in what she calls a "currency tsunami."
Record-low interest rates in the United States and Europe have
brought droves of investors to Brazil, strengthening its
currency, the real and making imports much cheaper.
Brazil circulated a proposal on Nov. 5, explaining that WTO
rules contained language dealing with currency-related trade
distortions but no adequate instruments to act directly. China
was one of the countries to reject the proposal.
Azevedo said the drive to debate currency and trade is
actually an example of how he was able to get all players to sit
down and discuss a controversial issue without resulting i n "a
If elected, he said he would not impose the currency issue
on the WTO agenda, but said that it is up to all members to
advance the talks and agree on any instruments to prevent
exchange rate fluctuations from hurting global trade.
Getting all members to end a diplomatic deadlock that
derailed a decade of talks on trade liberalization may be a much
harder task for whoever wins the WTO's top seat.
The WTO's credibility suffered a serious blow in 2011 when
its member states recognized that the 10-year old Doha Round of
trade talks - meant to culminate in a bold new trade deal - was,
if not dead, at least at an impasse.
"In all honesty, it is difficult to say how much the new
(WTO) director general will be able to do to continue the
negotiations at its maximum amplitude, in the way they were
originally conceived," said Azevedo.
"What the director can do is understand the wishes of the
members and advance with a negotiating agenda that makes those
Current WTO chief Pascal Lamy's second term expires on Aug.
31. Other contenders to replace him include candidates from New
Zealand, Ghana, Mexico, Costa Rica, South Korea, Kenya, Jordan