* Pascal Lamy, WTO head, to step down at end-August
* Taeho Bark is eighth person to enter race to succeed him
* Some diplomats say job should go to a developing country
By Tom Miles
GENEVA, Dec 28 South Korea nominated Taeho Bark,
its trade minister, to lead the World Trade Organization on
Friday, making him the eighth candidate to be put forward for
the top job.
Bark's candidacy was submitted three days before nominations
close and as Pascal Lamy, the global trade body's current
director general, prepares to step down on Aug. 31, 2013.
Although Lamy has said his successor should be chosen on the
basis of competence alone, some trade diplomats say it is the
turn of a developing country to hold the job.
Bark is the second candidate from a rich country and the
third from the Asia-Pacific to apply.
So far, all but one of the candidates are serving or former
trade ministers and several, like Bark, have U.S. doctoral
degrees in economics and strong academic credentials.
Apart from South Korea, countries that have nominated
candidates include Mexico, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Jordan,
Kenya and New Zealand. More could be put forward before the
deadline of midnight on Dec. 31.
The candidates will present their case for becoming the
sixth head of the WTO at a meeting at its Geneva headquarters on
Jan. 29, part of a three-month campaigning period after which
the field will be gradually whittled down.
The candidate with the least support among the WTO's 157
members will be asked to withdraw until a winner emerges,
something expected to happen by the end of May.
Bark may be seen as the candidate most closely associated
with regional free trade agreements (FTAs), as South Korea has
been eager to negotiate such deals with the United States and
China among others.
Although every member of the WTO is involved in such free
trade deals, critics say the rush to broker regional agreements
could create a fragmented trading world and undermine the WTO as
a system for unifying and equalising trade rules.
In pursuing FTAs, South Korea has pointed to the benefits to
its own economy rather than to the global trading system.
"By penetrating these major markets of global economic
activities through separate and independent FTAs, Korea
endeavors to place itself at the center of global economic
traffic," Bark told the American Chamber of Commerce in Seoul in
March this year.
"Korea's strategy of creating a global FTA hub is proving to
be a success," he said.
But Bark also said that the emergence of regional blocs must
revitalise the global WTO system and should be recognised as
"building blocks, rather than obstacles". During the selection
process, he may be pressed to flesh out his ideas for making
(Editing by Andrew Osborn)