6:28 AM Oct 4, 1994


Geneva 3 Oct (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- The first round of informal consultations on the selection of a successor for GATT Director-General Peter Sutherland suggests that the preference of members is running along regional lines, and it is too early to see any clear front-runner among the three who is commanding large support that could emerge as a consensus choice, GATT sources said Monday night.

The Chairman of the GATT CPs, Andres Szepesi of Hungary, began his consultations with individual heads of delegations to GATT to assess the support and preferences among the three candidates now officially in the running.

The three are: Dr. Kim Chul-Su of South Korea, Mr. Renato Ruggiero of Italy (the official EU nominee) and President Salinas of Mexico.

GATT delegations said that in the consultations, predictably, Latin American delegations have come out in support of Salinas, the Asians generally in favour of Dr. Kim and the Europeans for Ruggiero.

However, they said these are just the first positions.

Complicating the selection process is the continued EU-US dispute over filling up the OECD job -- where Frenchman Paye is out and a successor yet to be named.

That these posts are being looked at 'plums' for distribution among the OECD membership or those aspiring is itself a commentary of sorts on the claims that the GATT and the WTO is no longer a "rich man's club", but that the future WTO will have a potential 94 developing country members (now in GATT) and six more seeking to accede.

Some GATT delegations said that in the continuing consultations, the EU would be able to exert considerable influence to get the ACP countries, as well as some in Asia too, to support Ruggiero. Mexico, similarly would be exerting its influence in the Caribbean area.

And if the US is fully behind Salinas, there would be its lobbying.

However, the sources said none of these would be decisive, and many while 'leaning' towards one or other regional candidates, would keep others guessing and maintain their options.

Some sources felt that regional preferences might become 'rigid' enough to create a situation where some 'dark horses' could join the race.