Bush to tap Zoellick for World Bank post
Senior White House official says former U.S. trade representative is president's pick to succeed Wolfowitz.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush plans to nominate former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick to replace Paul Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank, a senior administration official told CNN Tuesday.
Zoellick, 53, also served as U.S. trade representative from 2001 until 2005. He was the State Department's No. 2 official until June 2006, when he resigned, saying he planned to join the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs (Charts, Fortune 500).
As the World Bank's largest shareholder, the United States appoints its president. Zoellick's nomination must be approved by the 24 executive directors of the World Bank, a 184-nation development bank.
An event at which Bush will formally nominate Zoellick is planned for Wednesday morning. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who participated in the vetting process, will also attend, the official said.
The president decided on Zoellick over the weekend, and Zoellick has accepted the offer, the administration official said, adding, "the president is confident (Zoellick) has sufficient support to win the position."
Paulson "has gotten positive feedback from many of our counterparts," the official said. "Bob is very well known around the world in finance, trade and foreign affairs."
The World Bank will vote on Zoellick before Paul Wolfowitz's June 30 departure. There are 24 seats, with some single seats representing multiple countries. The U.S. vote will be cast by Eli Whitney Debevoise, U.S. executive director to the World Bank.
Zoellick will need a majority to be approved as the new World Bank president, although it is customary that the World Bank reaches near consensus or unanimity.
When Zoellick resigned from the State Department in June 2006, his departure had been rumored for several months and was expected after he was passed over to replace John Snow as treasury secretary the year before.
A Zoellick associate and former White House official praised Zoellick for being "a team player" at the time.
"He was gracious when he didn't get it," the former official said. "He helped Hank (Paulson) get his staff up and running. They're good friends."
Wolfowitz resigned earlier this month after weeks of controversy over his handling of a pay package for his girlfriend, a World Bank employee.
The matter deeply divided the bank's board, with one bank official telling CNN there were questions regarding whether the United States should choose Wolfowitz's successor.
A World Bank employee and critic of Zoellick and Wolfowitz suggested Zoellick would need a "strong number two" if he serves as head of the organization, citing a "lack of people skills."
He also suggested Zoellick would need to purge Wolfowitz's top advisors, who, he said, were not well-liked by many at the World Bank. The employee referred to Wolfowitz's chief of staff as "the dragon lady" because, he said, "many believed she was evil."
During his tenure as U.S. trade representative, Zoellick was credited with bringing China and Taiwan into the World Trade Organization, as well as developing a strategy to launch new global trade negotiations at the WTO meeting in Doha and pressing those negotiations forward, according to his biography posted on the White House Web site.
At the State Department, he was credited with being the Bush administration's top official on Sudan, where he helped craft an agreement aimed at ending fighting between the country's north and south. He also participated in negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement and in the launch of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group, the White House said. Zoellick also played a critical role in the reunification of Germany and China policy as well as Darfur.
Before he took the trade representative post in 2001, Zoellick served at the State Department in various positions. In 1992, he was appointed White House Deputy chief of staff and assistant to the president, according to the White House.