4 years ago

Who will be at the helm if the WTO Director General leaves early? European representatives take the lead in becoming popular candidates

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World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevedo announced on May 14 that he officially resigned at the end of August one year in advance. The trade war is still in the ears, coupled with the new coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) epidemic, the selection of the new Director General has naturally become a venue for geopolitical wrestling.

The representative of the trade war, US President Donald Trump, has repeatedly criticized the WTO ’s weak stance on China. Because Washington obstructs the appointment of new judges, the WTO ’s appellate body is in a state of suspension. Faced with the trade barriers caused by the epidemic, the WTO has not made much moves. The only fishery subsidy negotiations that the WTO is expected to reach a consensus have also been suspended.

The website of the European Political Weekly (Politico) described that the goal of the selection process of the Director General was to try to reach a consensus around a candidate, and the remaining candidates withdrew one after another. No representative from the United States and China has served as director-general, and European representatives have served as director-general three times.

According to reports, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González and Swedish former EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström took the lead in becoming hot candidates. However, since Azevedo’s last director-general, Pascal Lamy, came from France, other camps may prefer to elect directors from outside Europe.

Trade diplomats feel it is time to let African representatives take the helm and are considering multiple African candidates, but no consensus has yet been reached. And Azevedo had to count Supachai Panitchpakdi (Thailand) as the last director general from emerging markets.

The semi-annual summit of the World Trade Organization was originally scheduled to be held in Kazakhstan in June, because the impact of the epidemic has been postponed and is expected to be held in June 2021. The report quoted officials in Geneva as saying that Azevedo’s early departure was to hope that the WTO would avoid holding the election of the Director General and the summit at the same time.


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