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Sutherland, first to lead WTO, dies

Peter Sutherland, an Irish attorney who became the first director-general of the World Trade Organization when it formed in 1993, died on Jan. 7.

   Peter Sutherland, an Irish attorney who became the first director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) when it formed in 1993, died after a long illness on Jan. 7. He was 71.
   He took charge of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) at a time when the outcome of the broad and complex Uruguay Round of global trade talks was in question. Sutherland is credited with securing 123 signatories to the GATT, which led to the signing of the Marrakesh Agreement that created the WTO.
   “He was instrumental in laying the foundation for the WTO and the multilateral trading system as we know it today,” said WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo in a statement. “He was dedicated to the principle that opening trade meant opening possibilities for economic growth, development and job creation. This principle is as important today as it was when the WTO was created.”
   Sutherland became Ireland’s attorney general in 1981 and then served as the European Commissioner for Competition from 1985 to 1989, during which he took on Europe’s state-owned aviation industry in an effort to stimulate competition. He was also frequently referred to as “the sheriff” in Brussels for battling a number of European country subsidies and blocking various corporate mergers, according to the Independent newspaper.
   At the WTO, he followed Arthur Dunkel who headed the GATT from 1980 to 1993. He was followed in the role as WTO chief by Renato Ruggiero from 1995 to 1999.
   After leaving the WTO, Sutherland worked for three decades in senior positions in the banking and energy sectors. In 2006, then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan named him UN special representative for migration, a position which he retained for the rest of his life.

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