Seasoned Asia hand Zoellick picked to head World Bank

Bush’s choice should get job despite concerns over management style.

UNITED States President George W. Bush has picked a seasoned Asia hand as his choice to be the next World Bank president.

Mr Robert Zoellick, a former top trade official and deputy secretary of state, was nominated to replace the scandal-tainted Paul Wolfowitz at the end of next month.

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who was tasked to look for a replacement, recommended the Harvard Law School graduate to the White House after consulting the bank’s members.

He said Mr Zoellick, who is currently Goldman Sach’s point man on international affairs, had emerged as the first choice of economic ministers around the world.

The ministers have been calling for someone to restore the bank’s credibility following a two-month favouritism scandal.

“Bob has a very strong track record working with colleagues and leaders to get results,” Mr Paulson told reporters on Tuesday. He added that he expects the World Bank’s 24-member board to greet Mr Zoellick “with enthusiasm”.

Though the US picks candidates to head the bank, the organisation’s board still has to approve the choice.

Despite his reputation for being tough, demanding and occasionally abrasive, Mr Zoellick has built up a network of allies around the world during his years in the government as a strong advocate of free trade.

He has served in high-ranking foreign policy and economic policy posts under three Republican presidents. He also played a prominent role in the reunification of Germany and led efforts to revive the Doha trade talks round.

As trade chief, he has extensive links in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

Economic globalisation is one issue that consumes his attention.

In a recent interview with The Straits Times, he noted:“Many countries feel that the US is a major beneficiary of the globalised economy. But yet, many Americans are wary of the changes and the uncertainties.”

His contribution in Asia has been critical. He coined the “responsible stakeholder” concept for China – setting benchmarks on how it should behave on the international stage.

At 53, Mr Zoellick stands to become the youngest World Bank chief in recent times. He has made it clear previously that he does not want to be subject to a “beauty contest” where the US and European nations haggled over the World Bank post.

Singapore last night said it “strongly supports” Mr Zoellick’s nomination. “Singapore is confident that Mr Zoellick’s abilities and wealth of experience will put him in good stead to provide leadership to the World Bank,” the

Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

AN EXCELLENT CHOICE

“Zoellick is an excellent choice. He is not only a strong leader, he is also a consensus-builder, always looking for win-win solutions. In my negotiations with him on the US-Singapore FTA, I found him to be tough but reasonable. “At the WTO, he was prepared to take risks in brokering compromises. In US-China relations, he played an important role in conceptualising China’s ‘stakeholder’ role in the global system.”
SINGAPORE FOREIGN MINISTER GEORGE YEO

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