Ms Kwas grouping, as well as several dozen academics, dont trust Mr Harbinsons independence from the US and the Europeans. Thats primarily because of the way he flattened dissent in his draft Doha declaration and then sent a contentious draft under his own responsibility. These groups claim that Mr Harbinson is out of character with article VI.4 of the agreement establishing the
WTO. The provision requires the secretariat to be international in character and not seek or accept instructions from any government and any other authority. On her website Ms Kwa has posted a rather provocative chant describing how much the Americans and the Europeans bank on
Mr Harbinson: Harbinson, Harbinson, hes our man; If he cant do it, nobody can!.
On how Mr Harbinson, an envoy of Hong Kong, has a reputation for stone-walling opposition and refusing to modify his original stand on any subject, trade expert Pradeep S Mehta of CUTS Jaipur says, Harbinsons selection (to a position thats supposed to go to an internal candidate) is unprecedented. Supachai should have pressed for someone more acceptable to the developing world. But now that he finds himself in the present situation, Supachai can use it to his advantage by demonstrating his decisiveness.
Mr Mehta argues that the chef de cabinet isnt a crucial post in the WTO scheme of things. Also that Supachai knows how to steer.
Holding of dual positions is so far limited to the D-G. After much confusion, earlier this year, (outgoing) D-G Mike Moore placed himself as the chair of the crucial trade negotiations committee (TNC). Those in the Supachai camp were extremely worried if Mr Moore would try and continue to latch on to the TNC position even after he relinquishes the D-Gs office on August 31. If that happens, Dr Supachai may reconsider his decision to take up the D-Gs post, a source close to him had told FE. Subsequently, Mr Moore relented and it was clarified that the dual position was an ex-officio arrangement. The irony is that the clarification was issued by none other than Mr Harbinson.
Dr Supachai is a former deputy prime minister of Thailand. Three years back he refused to back down from his candidature against Mr Moore (a former PM of New Zealand). The sharp division among member-nations could only be avoided at the last minute and the D-Gs term of six years was split between the two rival candidates.