WASHINGTON - Robert Zoellick, a nimble negotiator who has crisscrossed the
globe as President Bush's trade chief and as the country's No. 2 diplomat, is
the White House's choice to be the next World Bank president.
Then-Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick announces his
resignation at the State Department in Washington, in this June 19, 2006
file photo. [AP]
Bush will announce the decision on Wednesday, according to a senior
He would succeed Paul Wolfowitz, who is stepping down June 30 after findings
by a special bank panel that he broke bank rules when he arranged a hefty
compensation package in 2005 for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, a bank employee.
The controversy led to calls from Europeans, the bank's staff, aid groups,
Democratic politicians and others for Wolfowitz to resign from the
A seasoned veteran of politics both inside the Beltway and on the
international stage, Zoellick, 53, has a knack for mastering intricate subject
matter and translating it into policies. He is known for pulling facts and
figures off the top of his head. He also has a reputation for being a demanding
Bush's selection of Zoellick must be approved by the World Bank's 24-member
The White House expects Zoellick to gain the board's acceptance. The senior
official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of Bush's announcement,
said so far other nations have had a positive reaction.
Zoellick announced last June that he was leaving his post as deputy secretary
of state to join a Wall Street firm and work to develop investment markets
around the world.
At the time, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Zoellick had served as
her "alter ego" in the department. He was widely believed to be have been
interested in getting a promotion and becoming Treasury Secretary. But that job
went to Goldman Sachs chief Henry Paulson.
If ultimately approved as World Bank chief, Zoellick will need to regain
trust, rebuild credibility and mend frayed relations inside the institution as
well as with its member countries around the world.
All of those things are critical for the bank's new leader, who will have to
persuade countries to contribute close to $30 billion over the next few years to
fund a centerpiece bank program that provides interest-free loans to the poorest
"The test of Zoellick is whether he manages to turn around the bank, which
has been in huge disarray," said Elizabeth Stuart, senior policy adviser for
Oxfam International, a group involve in helping the world's poor.
Zoellick has built strong contacts around the globe over the years.
He is now an executive at Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs. As Bush's deputy
secretary of state he focused on a range of diplomatic duties from the Sudan
peace talks to strategic discussions with China.
Before that, as US Trade Representative, Zoellick played a key role in
negotiations to bring China into the World Trade Organization. He forged free
trade deals between the United States and other countries, including Singapore,
Chile, Australia and Morocco. And, he had helped to launch global trade talks in
Some groups involved in promoting global health worry about Zoellick's
free-market bent and his past support for trade agreements that critics viewed
as favoring large pharmaceutical companies.
"It's impossible to imagine the same Zoellick who carried water" for the
large pharmaceutical companies "being the kind of advocate African ministers of
health need in order to expand their investments in salaries for doctors and
nurses," said Asia Russell, director of international policy for Health GAP,
which stands for (Global Access Project) .
Peru, however, welcomed the selection.
"My impression is that it's a good choice President Bush is making," Peru's
Foreign Trade Minister Mercedes Araoz told The Associated Press. "He was a
driving force of the US trade agenda in seeking association with developing
countries, among them, Peru."
Under Bush's father's administration, Zoellick worked closely with
then-Secretary of State James Baker on policies pertaining to the end of the
Cold War. He also had worked on negotiations on German unification.