Voice

The Next Head of the WTO? Choose Wisely.

It's time to put someone from the BRICS in charge of the world's leading trade body.

In a historic first, the next leader of the World Trade Organization will hail from Latin America. A field of nine candidates has now been winnowed down to two, one from Mexico and one from Brazil, meaning that, at a crucial moment in the history of the international trading system, the leader of the central organization for resolving global trade differences and shaping future agreements will come from the emerging part of the Western Hemisphere.

One candidate, Roberto Azevedo, is currently Brazil's ambassador to the WTO. The other, Herminio Blanco, is a former Mexican trade minister and one of the architects of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Both are widely respected and well-liked by those who know them well. On the surface, the two candidates seem extremely similar. But to suggest that these men represent a common perspective could not be further from the truth. They illustrate a choice as stark as past and future for an organization that finds itself at a critical turning point.

The knock on Azevedo is that he has never served as a trade minister, a post that has typically been a jumping-off point for past WTO chiefs. But he has been exceptionally active within the halls of the trade organization's Geneva headquarters -- an acknowledged leader there, especially among the world's rising powers, and he is seen as more closely in touch with the trade issues of the day than is Blanco.

Blanco, trained at the University of Chicago, is exceptionally competent. I worked with him when I was a senior U.S. trade official during the Clinton administration and I know that my colleagues and I always held him in very high regard. But, in the eyes of his critics, he has been out of the international trade arena for too long, having been working in the private sector and not actively involved in the complex, frustrating debates surrounding the Doha world trade talks or the need for meaningful reform of the WTO. The organization, set up officially in 1995, doesn't seem up to addressing the problems of a modern world crisscrossed with non-tariff barriers or grappling with the new problems of Internet- and services-based trade, widespread currency manipulation, and incipient protection appearing in many guises.

There is, however, a bigger difference between the two men that is already manifesting itself in the early whip-counts of potential voters from around the world. According to trade-community insiders in Washington and around the world with whom I have spoken over the past few days, Blanco is seen as the preferred candidate of the United States and much of what might be described as the traditional or old-school trade establishment. Azevedo, on the other hand, appears to have deeper support among the BRICs and among many of the other representatives of the emerging world.

This split matters, because the principal divide in world trade today is not, as it once was, East-West, trans-Atlantic, or even trans-Pacific. It is much more north-south, a split between developed countries that have long dominated the trade discussions and the emerging ones who, through flexing their muscle effectively for the first time during the Doha Round negotiations, put those discussions on ice until their core concerns could be resolved.

Among the most critical of those concerns are frustrations emerging powers have with the seemingly bullet-proof, reform-resistant series of subsidies that are protecting developed-world agricultural producers at the expense of their counterparts like Brazil, India, and other emerging countries with great potential to provide feed the world. Similarly, the questions associated with how and when emerging powers begin to compete and operate on the same terms and to the same standards as developed powers also loom large. Newly proposed trade deals, such as the recently opened negotiations between the United States and the European Union, have at their heart a desire by these first-world powers to grow closer together and to maintain a more unified front when challenged by the emerging powers led by the BRICs.

The WTO has, thus far, despite a global set of responsibilities, largely been a club built on the vision and delivering special power to representatives of the developed world. But while much is murky about the future of the global economy, one thing is not: The balance of trade growth is shifting, irreversibly to the emerging world. (By 2010, according to the United Nations, developing-country import growth already was responsible for about half of world trade growth.) In addition, the emerging countries represent both a majority of world population and the nations with the greatest need for consistent economic growth if social equity or stability are our shared goals as a planet.

Developed countries fear that having a Brazilian lead the WTO would put their interests at risk. But there's no reason to think so. Quite the contrary: Azevedo, given his background and support among the most important countries of the emerging world as well as his familiarity with the WTO as it is currently operating, might well be more likely to offer a path toward practical North-South solutions. In addition, Brazil's own strong stand against currency manipulation -- whether by China or the United States -- is an example of why it is old-think to assume that an individual's place of birth represents an ideological strait-jacket.

There are few global organizations about which the view is so widely held that reform is essential and few where, for that reform to be fair and effective, it is so vital that the new voices of the global economy be fairly represented. Because Roberto Azevedo is the best person to lead that change and stand for those voices, he should be the WTO's next director-general.

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

David Rothkopf

The Balance of Power

Why sexism is civilization's greatest shame.

If, after reading through the FP Power Map that is at the heart of this issue, you were to conclude that the most disturbing aspect of the list is that only 10 percent of the people on it are women, you would be right. If you were to conclude that this fact is merely a cultural anomaly, a troubling quirk, or only the concern of the politically correct, however, you would be deeply and dangerously wrong.

Because our list is admittedly imperfect and impressionistic, you might decide there was a problem with our process or our tabulation. But the 10 percent figure is consistent with other such lists, and in fact that's the point: It's culled from many of the lists and groupings that track and monitor global power, from the G-20 to the Fortune 500. Several years ago, when I wrote a book called Superclass focusing on the global power elite, I put together a list of the world's 6,000 most powerful people based on a fairly rigorous definition of global clout: Each person on the list influenced millions beyond his or her national borders on a regular basis. My list included religious, media, business, financial, military, cultural, and political leaders. Women represented 6 percent of the list. Today the 18 women who are chief executives of Fortune 500 companies constitute less than 4 percent of those 500 firms. And that latter percentage would be even lower if you were listing women in top positions in globally influential religious groups or military organizations.

The New York Times recently ran a story noting that women are flexing their muscle in the U.S. Senate because 20 of them now serve in that (largely inert) deliberative body. This was celebrated as a sign of progress, which, of course, given America's lamentable past, it is. But women are half the population. They are still grossly underrepresented. Worldwide, the numbers are much the same, with women making up approximately 20 percent of those at work in global legislatures. Representation proportional to their numbers would give them nearly three times as many seats.

Because these figures are so familiar to us, so broadly accepted, we end up celebrating the occasional story of progress or individual success as representing far greater gains than are actually being realized. For every legislature that manages to achieve a surprising gender balance, like Rwanda's, which leads the world with 56 percent female representation; for every corporate board with an equal number of women and men; for every balanced cabinet, like that of former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet; for every powerful woman made good, whether world leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or chief executives like Marissa Mayer of Yahoo!, Ursula Burns of Xerox, and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, literally hundreds of millions of women are denied equal protection under the law, the ability to pursue the careers they want, or even the right to count on the most basic freedoms that men take for granted.

In fact, the underrepresentation of women in positions of power is proof not so much that men still dominate the top of the pyramid as it is of a system of the most egregious, widespread, pernicious, destructive pattern of human rights abuses in the history of civilization. There is no genocide against any people that has produced more victims than the number of females who have lost their lives to discrimination against the birth of girl babies (in Pakistan alone, for instance, there is a culturally encouraged "shortage" of an estimated 6 million females), or who have died from the unwillingness of societies to provide the health care women need, or who die as a result of social customs that allow fathers to kill daughters for "shaming" families, husbands to kill wives for adultery, and men to perpetrate other horrific violence against women. That countless millions of women are also regularly raped, beaten, and abused by men only compounds these atrocities.

The systematic, persistent acceptance of women's second-class status is history's greatest shame. And for all our self-congratulations about how far we have come, we live in a world where even in the most advanced countries, deep injustices against women remain. These injustices, of course, have other costs beyond the purely human ones. Nothing would help societies grow more than educating and empowering women economically. Democracy is a sham until the planet's majority population actually achieves equitable representation in deliberative bodies and executive positions of government. And the absence of women in positions of power is also, of course, a guarantee that women's interests will continue to be minimized, ignored, or repressed.

We're talking about nothing less than an epoch-long war on a people here, an effort to hold back the economic -- and social -- progress of the majority of humanity. So how come the tough guys of the foreign-policy community continue to denigrate this as a "soft" issue, one of secondary importance at best?

Lists like Foreign Policy's should not simply be pored over to see who made it and who did not. They should be taken in instances like this one as evidence that we are so inured to abusing and undervaluing our mothers, sisters, and daughters that we have come to accept the unacceptable. Here's to the day when we no longer treat as customary that which, like slavery, ethnic slaughter, and religious inquisitions, must be seen as anathema to civilization.  

GAPS Fotografie/istock