Mexico to propose NAFTA renegotiator to lead WTO: sources

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's Deputy Foreign Minister for North America, Jesus Sead reacts during the delivery of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) deal, at the Senate building in Mexico City, Mexico May 30, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Romero

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico is set to propose senior trade official Jesus Seade, who helped rework the North American Free Trade Agreement, as a candidate to be the next director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), sources said on Sunday.

The WTO post will become vacant at the end of August after incumbent Roberto Azevedo, from Brazil, said he would step down a year early.

The next director-general will be faced with U.S.-China tensions and rising protectionism exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seade is currently Mexico’s deputy foreign minister for North America and has experience working in China as well as with the United States. Two sources with knowledge of the discussions told Reuters he will be Mexico’s candidate to replace Azevedo.

The news was first reported by Mexico’s El Universal newspaper. The president’s office and foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Seade was a deputy director general of the WTO when it was created in the early 1990s. When President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador won office in 2018, Seade was brought in to lead negotiations for a new North American trade deal to replace NAFTA.

Previously, Seade worked at universities in Hong Kong for more than a decade.

WTO members can nominate their own nationals as candidates from June 8 to July 8. Several names have been cited as possible candidates from Africa and Europe, with some in Europe taking the view that leadership of the trade body should alternate between the developing and developed world.

(This story has been refiled to add dropped word ‘director’ in sixth paragraph)

Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa