Mr. Panitchpakdi was born on 30 May 1946 in Bangkok, where he studied at Saint Gabriel’s College and Triam Udom School. He obtained a Master’s in Econometrics and Development Planning and a PhD in Economic Planning and Development from the School of Economic Science in the Netherlands (Rotterdam), now the Erasmus University.
In 1973, Mr. Panitchpakdi completed his doctoral thesis on human resources planning and development, under the supervision of Jan Tinbergen, the first winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics.
Mr. Panitchpakdi started his career in 1974 at the Bank of Thailand, where he worked in the Research Department, the International Finance Division, and the Financial Institution Supervision Department.
In 1986, he was elected to the Thai Parliament and was appointed Vice Minister for Finance. In 1988, he was appointed Director and advisor, then Chairman, of the Thai Military Bank. In 1992, Mr. Panitchpakdi was appointed Senator and, in the same year, became Deputy Prime Minister in charge of supervising the preparation of national economic and trade policies. In this capacity, he was actively involved in the preparation of international trade policies and, in 1994, represented Thailand at the signing ceremony for the Uruguay Round Agreements in Marrakech. He also contributed to the preparation and operation of regional agreements, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).
From September 2002 to August 2005, Mr. Panitchpakdi was Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Following his appointment by the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Panitchpakdi was also Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) from 2005 to 2013.