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Jakarta Post

Why Indonesia, ASEAN need to support Seade as WTO chief 

  • Armando G. Alvarez


Jakarta   /   Tue, July 7, 2020   /   11:37 am
Why Indonesia, ASEAN need to support Seade as WTO chief  The World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters are seen in Geneva on April 12, 2018. (Agence France-Presse/Fabrice Coffrini)

Mexico and Indonesia are two large developing countries and two vibrating middle powers deeply committed with a strong and comprehensive multilateral trade system.

However, global trade faces many challenges nowadays, such as the erosion of multilateral institutions, the economic crisis derived from the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of unilateral protectionist measures.

Given this scenario, Mexico is determined to continue promoting multilateral cooperation schemes with Indonesia and Southeast Asian nations to strengthen an international trade system based on robust institutions, fair principles and clear rules.

The World Trade Organization is essential for global economic governance and has been central to world trade and economic development over the past seven decades. The WTO remains a cornerstone of the multilateral trading system, and its proper functioning is vital to give certainty in the context of increasing adversity.

According to the vision of Mexico, the WTO faces three significant challenges. First, to reaffirm its relevance given the limited progress made in negotiations amid the paralysis of its appellate body and the urgent need to modernize the administration of existing agreements.

Second, the organization needs to continue promoting traditional matters of trade negotiation, such as fisheries and agriculture, and has to deal with the revitalization of 21st-century economic issues taking into account e-commerce and the development of an ambitious sustainable vision.

Finally, the WTO has to mitigate, in the short term, the economic impact of the pandemic by encouraging its members to limit barriers that restrict the flow of goods and to take measures that contribute to the recovery of economic activities. However, at the same time, members should follow international protocols to preserve public health at the global level.

In these circumstances and facing the imminent election of a new director-general of the WTO, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has nominated Dr Jesus Seade, current undersecretary for North America at the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, to head the WTO at this crucial moment.

The Mexican government considers Seade the ideal candidate for such a responsibility given his extensive experience as a negotiator and facilitator of trade at the highest level, comprehensive career and academic background, as well as his deep understanding and strong ties with regions worldwide.

Seade, a chemical engineer from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and master and PhD in economics from the University of Oxford, has an in-depth knowledge of the WTO as he took part in the negotiations that gave birth to the organization. As Mexican ambassador to the GATT (former WTO, 1989-1993), he played a central role at the Uruguay Round, the series of foundational WTO negotiations. His appointment by consensus to serve as deputy director general of the GATT (1993-1994) and later of the WTO, the organization he helped to create, strengthened his unique set of experience in reaching trade agreements on a global scale.

He possesses first-hand knowledge of the economic dynamics of Asia and has proven to be an expert on the region´s trade and financial systems after having served as vice president and senior lecturer in economics at Lingnan University in Hong Kong (2007-2016); senior advisor to the ministries of financial services, and trade and industry; and deputy vice president for global affairs at CUHK-Shenzen University (2017) in China.

Also in Asia, Seade has worked closely, both bilaterally and in the multilateral arena, with countries of ASEAN. As a candidate to the WTO, he is fully aware of the accelerated growth experienced by the countries of this region in the last decades and is conscious of the leading role that these economies will play in the global stage in the near future. Dr Seade would seek to join efforts at the WTO with ASEAN member states to improve and strengthen the rules governing trade for the benefit of all parties.

With Indonesia, Mexico shares a tradition of supporting the international multilateral system based on rules and principles. This situation has been demonstrated through the close and intense collaboration in organizations and fora in which both countries share memberships, such as the United Nations, ASEAN, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Group of 20 and MIKTA (Mexico, Indonesia Korea, Turkey and Australia).

Following this spirit of collaboration, Jesus Seade has been keen at learning in detail Indonesia’s trade priorities and concerns to build consensus and help to solve trade disputes within the frame of the WTO.

Mexico hopes that Indonesia and the rest of the ASEAN countries will support the candidacy of Seade in the WTO. He is a global man whose experience, vision and skills will help build a strong, inclusive and open multilateral trading system and face some of the most critical challenges of our time.


Ambassador of Mexico to Indonesia

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.