Tributes were paid Monday to Irish national Peter Sutherland after the WTO’s first director general and former chairman of energy giant BP died at the weekend after a long illness. Sutherland, who served also as an EU commissioner, a UN special representative on migration and chairman of Goldman Sachs International, part of the US investment banking giant, died in a Dublin hospital aged 71.
“It was with great sadness that I learned of Peter Sutherland’s passing,” World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in a statement. “Peter was a great man and a great friend of the global trading system. He was instrumental in laying the foundation for the WTO and the multilateral trading system as we know it today.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker described Sutherland as “a true European”. “He believed strongly in the work of the European Union and other international organizations and their importance for cooperation and international dialogue,” Juncker added. Irish President Michael D. Higgins said Sutherland had left an “important legacy”.
He added: “Tirelessly campaigning for global solutions to human trafficking and forced migration, he became a passionate and influential voice for the rights of the 65 million people who have been forced to flee their homes and homelands.”
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar tweeted that Sutherland had been “a statesman in every sense of the word; an Irishman, a committed European and a proud internationalist. Throughout his life, he was a champion for individual and economic freedoms. RIP.”
Beginning his career as a lawyer, Sutherland rose to become attorney general of Ireland, before taking the role of EU commissioner responsible for competition policy. He became director general of the World Trade Organization in 1995 and two years later was appointed chairman of BP.
“Peter Sutherland was a great chairman of BP and an even greater champion of Europe,” said current BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg. “He led the BP board for twelve years, through a period of immense change, helping establish BP as one of the super-majors. “On the broader world stage, Peter made a huge contribution to Europe and global trade.
And through his volunteer efforts he helped improve the economic condition of millions of migrants.” Among his other achievements, Sutherland helped to establish the Erasmus program that allows EU students to study at different universities within the bloc. He leaves behind a wife and three children.