WTO to open nominations for next director on June 8, after Azevedo steps down

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Candidates to succeed Roberto Azevedo as head of the WTO will have one month from June 8 to submit their nominations, the global trade body said following the Brazilian’s surprise resignation.

After July 8, candidates will be invited to meet with WTO members, the World Trade Organization said in a statement Wednesday after a decision by its 164 members.


The Brazilian last week announced he will step down on August 31, a year before his term ends, despite the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the global economy.

Azevedo said it had been a “personal decision” reached with his family, and stressed that he was not leaving to pursue “political opportunities.”

His abrupt departure leaves WTO members with less than three months to appoint a successor, a process which usually takes nine months.

Many observers are betting on a candidate from Africa -- and against a WTO insider.

Azevedo’s departure comes at a bad time with the WTO already in crisis before the pandemic hit, dealing with raging trade wars and scathing criticism by the United States under President Donald Trump, who has pushed for reforms of the Geneva-based body.

The procedure for appointing the director-general of the WTO is not an election but a process of elimination carried out in consultation with members.

Roberto Azevedo, Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) . (AP )
Roberto Azevedo, Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) . (AP )

Azevedo, who in 2013 succeeded Frenchman Pascal Lamy, was selected after three elimination stages.

On Azevedo’s watch, WTO members concluded their first-ever multilateral agreement when they reached a deal in Bali in late 2013 on overhauling global customs procedures.

But since his second term began in 2017, countries have failed to reach further multilateral agreements, and the WTO has struggled to deal with a US administration openly hostile to its multilateral approach.

The WTO was also forced to put its dispute settlement appeal system on ice last December after Washington blocked the appointment of new judges, preventing it from reaching a three-judge quorum.

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