TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jun20/25)
30 June 2020
Third World Network

EU Trade Commissioner drops out of race for post of WTO DG
Published in SUNS #9149 dated 30 June 2020

Geneva, 29 Jun (D. Ravi Kanth) -The European Union’s trade commissioner Mr Phil Hogan on Monday dropped his candidature from the race for the post of Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

In a related development, the current trade minister of South Korea, Ms Yoo Myung-hee, filed her nomination papers last week.

The EU trade commissioner’s sudden decision to drop out from the race has come as a surprise because Mr Hogan, who is from Ireland, had made sustained efforts to contest for the WTO’s top job, after the current incumbent Roberto Azevedo steps down from his post on 31 August.

In a statement released on the EU’s website, Mr Hogan said that “the World Trade Organisation is in crisis and requires all members to engage sincerely in meaningful reforms of this important international body.”

“The recent surprising decision by the Director General, Roberto Azevedo, to retire early should be seen as an opportunity for political leaders globally to seize this chance to make changes to the rules, the functions and structure of WTO in order to meet the demands of 21st century trade,” he said.

“Not since the foundation of the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) in 1947, has the need for an independent “global referee” that binds the participants of trade agreements to rules and disciplines been more important,” he claimed.

The EU trade commissioner said that “in recent days, it has become evident that the original timeline for this appointment in early September 2020 will be delayed and therefore create uncertainty in the leadership of the organisation at this critical time.”

However, he said the EU’s priorities at the WTO include:

* The post-Covid-19 economic recovery.

* The escalation of trade rhetoric and the unnecessary imposition of tariffs on EU goods by the USA rather than negotiating solutions to trade irritants is unacceptable and requires ongoing focus.

* The need to provide a level playing field with China as part of the negotiations towards an Investment Agreement in 2020 is essential for EU companies.

* The recent confirmation of the ambitious October 2020 timeline for the Brexit negotiations will require our attention.

* The implementation and enforcement of our EU Free Trade Agreements in 76 countries around the world requires new impetus for EU businesses and stakeholders.

“This important EU Trade Agenda requires the full and careful involvement of the European Union and in particular, the Trade Commissioner,” he said, suggesting that he has decided not to file his nomination papers for the post of WTO DG.

“This decision today will allow other potential candidates (including European nominees) to consider their candidacy before the close of nominations on the 8th July next,” he said.

Meanwhile, South Korea has on 24 June nominated Ms Yoo Myung-hee for the post of WTO Director-General.

According to her curriculum-vitae (CV), Ms Myung-hee is the first female trade minister from the Republic of Korea and that she is an “innovator, negotiator, strategist, and pioneer in her 25 year career in trade.”

She has devoted her career since 1995 to the multilateral trading system and its constant renewal.

Ms Myung-hee is the fifth candidate in the race for becoming the Director-General of the WTO.

The other four candidates include Ambassador Tudor Ulianovschi, the former foreign minister of Moldova; Mr Jesus Seade Kuri, Mexico’s current Under-Secretary for North America; Mr Abdulhameed Mamdouh of Egypt, who had served as the Director of the WTO’s Services Division; and Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former finance minister and current chair of the Board of GAVI (the global alliance for vaccines).