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.
Bush will announce the decision today, according to a senior administration official.
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.
Bush’s selection of Zoellick, 53, must be approved by the World Bank’s 24-member board.
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.
The bank’s executive directors, in a statement late Tuesday that made no mention of Zoellick by name, said it is essential the next president have a proven track record of leadership, experience managing a large international organization, a willingness to tackle governance reform and political objectivity and independence. While it had been informed that the United States will be nominating a candidate, the board also noted that nominations may be made by any executive director.
Zoellick 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 U.S. 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 Doha, Qatar.