WTO Director-General to Step Down in August

Written by Sandy Williams

World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevêdo announced he will step down from his second term one year early, on Aug. 31. Azevêdo called it a “family decision.”

“It is not health-related (thank goodness). Nor am I pursuing any political opportunities,” he added.

Stepping down now will avoid creating complications ahead of preparations for the MC12 and WTO reform in 2021. Under the normal calendar, the selection process for the next director-general would have begun in December, tying up the first third or longer of 2021.

“This timing would clearly impair preparatory work for MC12, irrespective of whether it is held in the northern summer or at the end of the year,” said Azevêdo. “In either case, the selection process would be a distraction from – or worse, a disruption to – our desired outcomes. Instead of focusing all efforts on the search for compromise – on finding flexibility and making concessions – we would be spending valuable time on a politically charged process that has proved divisive in the past.”

Azevêdo urged the General Council to move ahead promptly with the process for selecting his replacement. “This organization must start 2021 with a focus on the real challenges: ensuring that the multilateral trading system responds to new economic realities, and above all the post-COVID recovery. It cannot afford to be distracted by a protracted search for a new DG.”

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