U.S. News

World Bank Nominee Zoellick Believes WTO Deal Possible

By Reuters
Robert Zoellick.
Evan Vucci

World Bank presidential nominee Robert Zoellick said on Tuesday he believed a deal could be clinched in the Doha round world trade talks and that such an accord would give a big boost to development and growth.

"I believe that a deal can be done. I believe a deal should be done. I believe it would make a great step for development and growth so I would like to try and help," he told reporters after a meeting with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

The comments by Zoellick, a former U.S. Trade Representative, came the week after World Trade Organisation head Pascal Lamy said a successful completion of the Doha round of trade talks was within reach.

"I would be pleased to try to work with the WTO and member states to see how we could make the aid for trade connection," said Zoellick, currently on the European leg of a tour aimed at winning support for his nomination by U.S. President George W. Bush to succeed Paul Wolfowitz as World Bank President.

Zoellick is the only candidate so far to take over the job vacated by Wolfowitz, who resigned last month amid an ethics scandal involving his companion.

His bid is unlikely to be contested despite a push by some developing countries to open up the selection process to include non-Americans and he made clear his intention to get the poverty fighting agency back on a normal footing.

"The immediate need is to calm the waters in the institution that have been roiled," Zoellick said.

"The key is to be open and listen. There are probably some frustrations that the people need to express."

Zoellick, who met French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Monday, said his host had been "very gracious."

Sarkozy's spokesman had said on Monday the message to Zoellick would be that the World Bank should concentrate its efforts on reducing poverty in Africa.

"Africa will remain a very strong priority for the World Bank," Zoellick told reporters.

"It is not just a question of opening markets but a question of having the development programs to let countries take advantage of open markets."

Turning to Sudan, whose war-torn Darfur region is the focus of international peace efforts, Zoellick said he thought the World Bank could play a role in infrastructure projects but added that the first priority was to restore security and secure a peace deal.