WTO in search of new Director General

The Brazilian Roberto Azevedo is leaving his post of Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Monday, leaving an institution in crisis and without a captain, in the midst of the global economic slump caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lhe premature departure of Azevdo, a year before the end of his mandate for family reasons, indeed comes at a time when the world economy is recording its most violent brake since the Great Depression of the 1930s, while international trade is hit hard by the Covid-19, which has collapsed production and trade.

Weakened by the many divisions between the members, the paralysis of its dispute settlement body, and criticism from the American administration, the WTO is thus at a crossroads.

“In September 2013, I said that the WTO was at a crossroads. It is still at a crossroads and will remain so for some time to come”, underlined in July the outgoing Director General of the Organization, considering that the institution is facing “enormous pressure” and should be more responsive to crises to regain its credibility.

Eight candidates – five men and three women – are in the running to take over the head of the Organization: Yoo Myung-hee (South Korea), Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh (Egypt-Switzerland), Amina Mohammed (Kenya), Jesus Seade Kuri (Mexico-Lebanon), Tudor Ulianovschi (Moldova), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria), Liam Fox (United Kingdom) and Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri (Arabian Saudi).

The procedure for appointing the head of the WTO is not an election, but a consensual mechanism that works by elimination. A “troika”, made up of the president of the general council (the supreme decision-making body that brings together the members of the WTO), the president of the dispute settlement body and the president of the trade policy review body, oversees this selection process.

The President of the General Council, in this case New Zealand Ambassador David Walker, will be responsible for receiving state representatives to ask them where their preferences go and try to determine which candidate is most likely to reach consensus. .

After this consultation phase, the “troika” is responsible for gradually eliminating the candidates who collect the fewest memberships. The selection in 2013 of Roberto Azevedo, who succeeded Frenchman Pascal Lamy, was thus made in three stages by successive eliminations.

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