Robert Zoellick: US free-market crusader

WASHINGTON - Robert Zoellick, poised to be announced Wednesay as the United States's nominee to head the World Bank, is a former top US diplomat and trade chief who made his mark championing free trade and handling sensitive relations with China.

As the top US trade envoy, he once said that in his view "free trade is about freedom."

"It's important for our economy but also for America's other interests and values throughout the world," he said.

Zoellick, 53, is a managing director at Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs.

He was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's top deputy from February 2005 to June 2006, after serving four years as the US Trade Representative under President George W. Bush.

As deputy secretary of state, one of Zoellick's primary concerns was the humanitarian crisis in Sudan, where he brokered a peace accord between Sudan's government and the main rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army.

Before moving to the State Department, he had played a key role in talks that brought China and Taiwan into the World Trade Organization, and helped forge free-trade agreements with Singapore, Chile, Australia, and Morocco.

He also was a driving force behind trade negotiations with five nations of Central America and the Dominican Republic, as well as Bahrain, Jordan, Vietnam and other countries, and launched trade talks with the Southern African Customs Union, Panama, the Andean countries, and Thailand.

During the presidential election campaign in 2000, Zoellick served as a foreign policy adviser to Bush as one of a coterie of hardline allies dubbed the "Vulcans."

In 1998 he had signed, along with other leading neo-conservatives such as Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, a letter to then-president Bill Clinton calling on him to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Born in Naperville, Illinois, Zoellick graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and took a master's degree in public policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in 1981. He also graduated with top honors from Swarthmore College in 1975.

Zoellick began his Washington career in 1985 at the Treasury Department then run by James Baker, who became a close ally.

When Baker became secretary of state for the elder George H.W. Bush, Zoellick became an advisor, also working alongside Rice.

A personal representative for then-president H.W. Bush at Group of Seven summits and other key international meetings, Zoellick negotiated the North American Free Trade Area at the start of the 1990s and the Uruguay Round of free-trade talks in 1994.

He was named White House deputy chief of staff in 1992.

During the presidency of Bill Clinton, Zoellick worked for the US mortgage giant, Fannie Mae, returning to the government to become President George W. Bush's Trade Representative in January 2001.

05/29/2007 22:14 GMT

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