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WTO members fail to agree on an interim DG due to political differences

Our Bureau | Updated on July 31, 2020 Published on July 31, 2020

Roberto Azevedo to exit August-end, new DG to be appointed by November 7

World Trade Organisation members have not arrived at a consensus on selection of an interim head to take charge of the multilateral body until a permanent chief to succeed the out-going Director General, Roberto Azevedo, could be appointed.

The four deputy director generals (DDGs), of which one was to be selected for the interim DG’s post, will now together carry out the functions of the multilateral body, in accordance with their current responsibilities, with advice from the chair of the WTO General Council when required, till a permanent DG was selected, said Keith Rockwell, Spokesperson, WTO, at a press briefing on Friday following a meeting of the GC.

“This arrangement will only be for about two months. The process of selection of the new WTO DG is expected to be over by November 7 2020,” Rockwell said, adding that it was the outer limit.

WTO Ministerial meet

Azevedo is scheduled to retire by the end of August. He said that he had opted to retire a year before his second four-year term was to end as he wanted to give enough time to his successor to prepare for the next WTO Ministerial meet in 2021. The WTO Ministerial, which mostly takes place every two years, was scheduled this year in June at Kazakhstan but was indefinitely postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although the process of selection of an interim DG was supposed to be non-controversial as the person would have been in charge for a short period and the postis supposed to be neutral, things became complicated with members judging the candidates on the basis of their nationality.

“...when delegations were meeting with the Chair (to indicate their preference), things they pointed to was nationality (of the candidates), their experience and the duties that they carry out,” Rockwell said, adding that it was not known how each factor was being weighed by individual members.

The four DDGs are from the United States, China, Germany and Nigeria. It has been reported that while the US was insisting that the DDG hailing from the country be given the responsibility, it was unacceptable to some other members including the EU and China.

There are a total of eight candidates who are competing for the permanent post of DG. They are from Egypt, Kenya, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and the UK.

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Published on July 31, 2020
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