WTO Chief Quits a Year Early
What’s new: World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevêdo has decided to step down on August 31, cutting his second term by exactly one year, according to a statement issued after a virtual meeting of WTO members on Thursday in Geneva.
The 62-year-old Brazilian cited family reasons for his resignation. He has been the global trade body’s top official since September 2013.
Azevêdo stressed the decision would allow the WTO to find a successor in the coming months “without diverting political energy and attention from preparations for the Twelfth Ministerial Conference” and to give the new leader sufficient time to plan the 2021 event.
Background: The decision comes during a turbulent time for the Geneva-based organization which is embroiled in an ongoing trade tussle between the U.S. and China as the global economy tanks due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The WTO estimated recently that world trade would decline by 32% in 2020 because of the pandemic, the deepest drop since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Trump administration’s blocking of nominees to serve as judges on the WTO’s appellate body have paralyzed the organization’s dispute resolution system.
Azevêdo urged WTO members to start searching for his successor immediately. If no candidate has been confirmed by his departure date, one of the current four deputy chiefs, which include senior officials from both the U.S. and China, will step up as an interim head.
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