Supachai Panitchpakdi began his second four-year term as Secretary-General of UNCTAD on 1 September 2009, following his unanimous confirmation by the United Nations General Assembly.
Born in Bangkok on 30 May 1946, Dr. Supachai was educated there at St. Gabriel's College and Triam Udom School. He received his Master's Degree in Econometrics, Development Planning, and his PhD in Economic Planning and Development, at the Netherlands School of Economics (now known as Erasmus University) in Rotterdam.
In 1973, Dr. Supachai completed his doctoral dissertation on Human Resource Planning and Development under the supervision of Professor Jan Tinbergen, the first Nobel laureate in economics.
Dr. Supachai began his professional career at the Bank of Thailand in 1974, working in the Research Department, the International Finance Division and the Financial Institutions Supervision Department.
In 1986, Dr. Supachai was elected to the Thai Parliament and appointed Deputy Minister of Finance.
In 1988, he was appointed Director and Advisor, and subsequently President, of the Thai Military Bank.
In 1992, Dr. Supachai was appointed Senator, and that same year he became Deputy Prime Minister, entrusted with oversight of the country's economic and trade policymaking. In this role he was actively involved in international trade policy, and represented Thailand at the signing ceremony in Marrakech of the Uruguay Round Agreement in 1994. He was also active in shaping regional agreements, including Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).
In 2001, he was appointed Visiting Professor at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne. He has published a number of books, including Globalization and Trade in the New Millennium (2001) and China and WTO: Changing China, Changing World Trade (2002, co-authored with Mark Clifford).
From September 2002 to August 2005, Dr. Supachai served as Director-General of the World Trade Organization.
In 2012, he was honoured with the Grand Prize in the Asia Cosmopolitan Awards. This prize is awarded by ASEAN to the individual making the "most distinguished achievements in economic, social science or cultural fields".