Mexico’s WTO candidate, a veteran trade negotiator

May 5, 2013
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The 62-year-old is no stranger to hard bargaining/AFP
The 62-year-old is no stranger to hard bargaining/AFP
MEXICO CITY, May 5 – Herminio Blanco, Mexico’s candidate to lead the World Trade Organization, is a seasoned trade negotiator between wealthy and developing nations who vows to bring credibility back to the global body.

The 62-year-old is no stranger to hard bargaining, having been at the centre of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a historic pact that came into force in 1994, unleashing massive commerce between the three nations.

For his candidacy to succeed Frenchman Pascal Lamy as WTO director general, Blanco has highlighted his 27 years of experience in reconciling the rival interests of developed and emerging nations.

Blanco, who served as trade minister between 1994 and 2000, played a role in the Uruguay round of talks that led to the creation of the WTO in 1995.

He also led negotiations that led to trade agreements with the European Union and smaller nations including Nicaragua and Bolivia.

“I led negotiations in 10 free trade agreements with countries much richer than mine, but also with some that were less developed,” Blanco told AFP in an interview. “I was successful because I understood the realities of each and every one of them.”

With global trade talks at a standstill, Blanco said that the WTO must “bridge the gap” between the organization’s diverse member nations in order to restore its credibility.

The post of WTO director general is high profile because its holder is tasked with reviving long-stalled talks on boosting global commerce and economic development in the organization’s 159 member states.

“The main challenge is the “W” in “WTO”, I mean the word World,” Blanco said, noting that a number of countries have focused on bilateral and regional deals instead.

“You have to transfer this energy (of negotiating regional agreements) back to Geneva,” where the WTO is based, to prove the usefulness and global reach of the organisation, Blanco said.

Blanco is part of Mexico’s old ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which governed the country without interruption from 1929 until 2000. The PRI returned to power in December and President Enrique Pena Nieto presented him as Mexico’s WTO candidate.

He was a finance ministry advisor until 1980 before teaching economics at Rice University in Houston, Texas, an academic post he held until 1985. That year, he joined the Mexican president’s economic council.

In 1988, Blanco was named deputy trade minister by president Carlos Salinas, who launched a privatization drive in the country’s industrial sector during his six-year term that ended in 1994.

Blanco was named Mexico’s chief negotiator for NAFTA in 1990, culminating with the pact’s signature four years later. He was rewarded with the job of trade minister, which he held for the duration of president Ernesto Zedillo’s 1994-2000 term.

When the PRI lost the 2000 election, Blanco went into the private sector, working as an advisor in politics and international trade for governments and corporations.

He is the founder and chief executive of IQOM Inteligencia Comercial, a consultancy that provides daily online analyses on trade in Latin America.

Blanco also serves as a member of the board of several companies, including Mexican bank Banorte and the Latin American Trade Bank (BLADEX).

He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Mexico’s Monterrey Institute of Technology and a doctorate in the same field from the University of Chicago, known for producing liberal economists opposed to state action.

Born in the northern state of Chihuahua in 1950, Herminio Alonso Blanco Mendoza is married and has two children.

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