Bush Nominates Robert Zoellick as World Bank President

Washington – If approved by the board of the World Bank to serve as the organization's president, Robert Zoellick would bring a wealth of experience in dealing with thorny trade, finance and development issues, President Bush says.

Zoellick, nominated May 30 by Bush to replace Paul Wolfowitz, has spent much of the last two decades working with his counterparts in other countries to broker deals on such difficult issues as trade reform, debt relief and U.S. relations with China and Sudan.

In announcing the nomination, Bush noted that Zoellick had launched the World Trade Organization's global trade negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda; increased the number of U.S. free-trade agreements; worked on such issues as German unification, Latin American debt relief and transition in the post-Soviet economies; and served on the board of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a relatively new mechanism for delivering U.S. assistance to countries making institutional and economic reforms.

Asked to come back to a public-service position just nine months after landing a top job at the New York financial firm Goldman Sachs, Zoellick most recently had worked to advance peace in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Zoellick hailed the bank as a cornerstone of the international financial architecture created after World War II that “is just as important today as it was then.”

Speaking to reporters following Bush’s remarks, Zoellick outlined the huge task ahead.

“Too many lands, particularly in Africa, are denied opportunity because of disease, weak health care and child mortality, hunger and poor agricultural infrastructure, lack of good schools, discrimination against girls and women, unsound governance and corruption, the want of property rights and the rule of law, and endangered environment," he said.

Zoellick said the work of the World Bank is “not about charity” but about helping countries and their citizens obtain the necessary support to address problems that at times seem “staggering.”

“Fortunately, there’s a new generation of leaders in many developing countries that is assuming responsibility for showing that poverty can be surmounted,” Zoellick said.

Traditionally, the United States has chosen the president of the World Bank while the managing director of the International Monetary Fund has been a European.  This practice has been called into question more recently because of controversy surrounding Wolfowitz’s departure.

Many countries would like to see the position filled solely on merit.

In that regard, Zoellick likely will have many supporters within the 185-member World Bank.  As U.S. trade representative from 2001-2004, and later as deputy secretary of state from 2005 to 2006, Zoellick traveled throughout the world meeting with ministers of trade, state and finance.

A transcript of Bush's and Zoellick's remarks is available on the White House Web site.