1 March 2005

Biographical Note

Secretary-General Proposes Appointment of Supachai Panitchpakdi, Curently WTO Director-General, as Head of UNCTAD

NEW YORK, 28 February (UN Headquarters) -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan today proposed, for confirmation by the General Assembly, the appointment of Supachai Panitchpakdi of Thailand as Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for a term of four years, beginning on 1 September 2005 and ending on 31 August 2009.

Dr. Supachai began his professional career at the Bank of Thailand in 1974.  He was a principal figure in devising measures to bail out troubled financial institutions in the early 1980s and was instrumental in introducing strong discipline for the public sector's external borrowings.

In 1986, Dr. Supachai left the Central Bank to run for Parliament.  With his track record at the Central Bank and his successful campaign, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Finance during his first political term.  He introduced the value-added tax system, laid the foundation for the establishment of the country's Export-Import Bank and improved the utilization of sizeable State enterprises' funds.  Towards the end of the 1980s, he left national politics and took part in the private sector as president of a commercial bank and chairman of several corporations, mainly striving to improve the international involvement of Thailand's private sector.

In 1992, he was appointed Senator and subsequently Deputy Prime Minister entrusted with oversight of the country's economic and trade policies.  He was actively involved in international trade policy, steering the ratification of the Uruguay Round Agreement through the Parliament.  Throughout the years, he was associated with the trade promoting activities of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Association of South-East Asia Nations (ASEAN).

On the wider regional and interregional stage, Dr. Supachai has played pivotal roles as initiator and active supporter of numerous trade and investment facilitating forums, groupings and development projects.  He was among the first to push for the formation of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) that draws together heads of governments from Asia and Europe to foster closer ties between the nations of the two continents.  He has been a major driving force behind the creation of the Greater Mekong Subregion and the economic grouping that links countries in South and South-East Asia.

Following the change of Government in November 1997 in the wake of Thailand's financial crisis, Dr. Supachai was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in charge of economic policies, and Minister of Commerce.  In 2000, he chaired the tenth UNCTAD Conference in Bangkok which strongly contributed towards the rebuilding of confidence in the multilateral process after the collapse of the WTO’s Seattle Ministerial Conference in the preceding year.

In September 1999, he was elected Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) taking office on 1 September 2002.

Dr. Supachai studied in the Netherlands between 1963 and 1973 under scholarship from the Bank of Thailand.  He received his Master's Degree in Econometrics, Development Planning and his Ph.D. in Economic Planning and Development at the Netherlands School of Economics (now known as Erasmus University) in Rotterdam.  In 1973, he completed his doctoral dissertation under supervision of Professor Jan Tinbergen -- the first Nobel laureate in economics.  That same year, he was accepted as a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University and conducted research on development models.

He has published a number of books, including Educational Growth in Developing Countries (1974), Globalization and Trade in the New Millennium (2001) and China and the WTO:  Changing China, Changing World Trade (2002, co-authored with Mark Clifford).

Born in Bangkok in 1946, Dr. Supachai is married to Mrs. Sasai and has a son and a daughter.

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