GENEVA (AP) _ In the face of long-standing regional deadlock over the new head of the World Trade Organization, the United States on Wednesday suggested all three official candidates should stand aside to make way for a compromise choice.
However, with their candidate in the clear lead, European trade officials dismissed the idea.
In its first official figures since the start of the leadership contest last summer, the WTO said out of replies from 116 countries, former Italian Trade Minister Renato Ruggiero had support from 57 countries.
Former South Korean Trade Minister Kim Chulsu trailed with 29, with former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari on 28. Two delegations did not list a preference.
Under WTO rules, any choice has to be by consensus rather than by a vote.
But at a meeting of senior trade ambassadors, the American hemisphere reiterated its support for Salinas and Asian nations stood behind Kim.
``There’s been no movement for months,″ said U.S. trade ambassador Booth Gardner. ``The only way I can see for us to break this deadlock is for all three to resign.″
``If they all resign, I don’t think we’d object,″ Gardner added. The United States has pushed hard for Salinas, but the Mexican’s campaign has not been helped by the economic crisis that exploded as soon as he left office.
However, Gardner said there had been no real discussion about the possibility of a fourth candidate. New Zealand has said it would be willing to field someone _ possibly Trade Minister Philip Burdon or former Prime Minister Mike Moore.
The European Union has so far refused to withdraw Ruggiero from the race. Any decision to do so now would entail the agreement of all 12 governments and mean loss of face.
Delegates will meet again next week. Gardner said the impasse would likely continue if the United States and European Union remained on opposite sides.
An increasingly likely scenario is that Peter Sutherland, who led the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and is now caretaker head of the successor WTO, will have to stay on beyond his March 15 term.
The WTO was set up on Jan. 1. It is meant to oversee a massive trade liberalizing agreement which entered into force at the same time.