Brazil's Roberto Azevedo endorsed as next head of the World Trade Organization

Brazilian Ambassador Roberto Azevedo won approval Tuesday as the next director-general of the U.N. World Trade Organization and will become the first Latin American to hold the top trade post when he takes over on Sept. 1.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Azevedo’s endorsement by the WTO General Council, calling his selection “important and timely at this critical juncture in the world economy.”

Azevedo won consensus support from the organization’s 159 members on May 8 to serve at the helm of WTO for the next four years. He will replace Pascal Lamy of France, who has been the director general for eight years.

Ban said Azevedo, who has been Brazil’s ambassador to the Geneva-based organization for the last five years, “is well placed to ensure that the WTO will continue its important work to develop an open, rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory trading system.”

Azevedo said last week after topping nine candidates for the post that his first priority will be to try to rescue the WTO’s credibility as a forum for trade negotiations.

He said the organization’s prestige is on the line because it is used more to settle trade disputes and monitor policy than as a host for serious trade negotiations.

“We are at a critical stage. The negotiating pillar of the WTO is completely stuck. There is a clear paralysis in the system,” Azevedo said. “We have a trade agenda that we have to broaden and tackle.”