In September of 2013, Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo of Brazil will take office as Latin America’s first-ever head of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The current director-general, Pascal Lamy, ends his second four-year term on August 31. Azevêdo’s goals include reinstituting the WTO as a neutral forum for high-level multinational trade negotiation, instead of simply continuing as a policy overseer and arbitrator of individual disputes.
The framework for the WTO originated in 1947, when 23 nations gathered in Geneva to sign the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, known today as GATT. The purpose of the agreement was to give impetus to post-war liberalization of international trade. Today, the World Trade Organization’s mandate includes the charge to act as a guarantor of the free and predictable flow of trade among nations. Its goals include lowering trade barriers and enforcing the modern multilateral trading system, the basis for all international commercial transactions.