18 Oct 2016

Ambassador Luzius Wasescha (1946-2016): Chair of the Board of Trustees of the World Trade Institute

A tribute to Luzius Wasescha, who has died aged 70, by former WTI Managing Director Thomas Cottier.

Luzius would open a meeting with a joke, winning the hearts of all around the table, irrespective of divergent interests. A master in communication and diplomacy, he was able to bring out what people shared, and thus was able to avoid and overcome conflict and tensions.Trained as a lawyer, skilled in all the four languages of Switzerland and the English language, he was able to take into account the background of those around the table, their interests, culture and preoccupations. From him, we learned that diplomacy primarily is about understanding the needs of others; only then own interests could successfully be pursued. This is what he applied in all fields of his outstanding career: from early days in the European movement after obtaining his doctorate from the University of Lausanne, to working on East–West relations during the Cold War, to launching the Uruguay Round, masterminding what was called the Café-au-Lait Coalition led by Colombia and Switzerland. He would develop initiatives during the Round, not waiting for political instructions, in order to move the process ahead. He was at his best in informal meetings, perhaps next to giving talks on complex trade issues in a manner which all were able to understand. Later, he represented Switzerland as its trade negotiator in chief, masterminding preferential trade agreements, and as Ambassador to the WTO and EFTA in Geneva.

Since its inception, Luzius supported the development of the WTI; later, close to his retirement, he joined the board as its chair, and made available his vast experience in the field in developing a strategy for the WTI as an interdisciplinary centre of the University of Bern. He was committed to the idea of training young trade specialists in an interdisciplinary manner and was proud of the 500 alumni of the WTI, all over the world.

We mourn with his wife Thu-Lang Tran Wasescha and his family and close friends. An independent voice for openness and transparency has left the stage, much too early after a life and career characterised by knowledge, understanding, courage, a great sense of humour and wit, but foremost a deeply felt and warm humanity and strong commitment to his causes. We do not let him go and shall keep him alive in fond memories, taking him as an example on our own paths, in gratitude for all he did for his country and for the WTI.

Thank you so much, and farewell, Luzius.

Thomas Cottier