Prime Minister John Key said he thought Trade Minister Tim Groser had run an excellent campaign in his bid to head the World Trade Organisation and was disappointed it had failed.
Mr Key said he thought his colleague would have been a "brilliant'' director and had the skills required to make a difference for New Zealand and global trade.
"It was an opportunity for New Zealand to get a WTO director that understands the issues, has experience and is committed to moving the trade agenda forward.
"At the end of the day it was always going to be a long shot - so he gave it his best go with the support of the Government,'' Mr Key said.
Mr Groser was one of nine candidates but was forced to withdraw his bid today after failing to be chosen for a final shortlist of two.
He was unable to comment because he was on his way back from Japan. A spokeswoman said more detail on why his bid had been withdrawn would be announced tomorrow.
Reuters reported this morning that Mr Groser had been encouraged to withdraw after failing to gain enough support from the WTO's 159 members.
Diplomatic sources were quoted as saying the race had come down to Mexico's Herminio Blanco or Brazil's Roberto Azevedo.
In recent months he has travelled overseas extensively lobbying for support, racking up expenses of almost $260,000 in the first three months of the year.
That figure topped the travel expenses of Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, who spent $130,000, and Mr Key, who spent $100,000.
Mr Key said Mr Groser's travel bill was money well-spent.
"If you look at what the WTO can achieve -they can achieve things that a bilateral or multilateral free trade agreement can't achieve, and that is subsidy reform.''
Mr Key said much larger sums were spent on New Zealander Mike Moore when he was in that position.