Left Menu
Development News Edition

EXPLAINER-How the next WTO chief will be chosen and the task ahead

His administration has blocked appointments to the WTO's Appellate Body that settles trade disputes, which now no longer has the minimum number of judges to convene. HOW THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL IS CHOSEN An initial eight candidates were were given two months to campaign until September 7.

Reuters | Updated: 18-09-2020 16:57 IST | Created: 18-09-2020 16:30 IST
EXPLAINER-How the next WTO chief will be chosen and the task ahead
Representative image Image Credit: ANI

Five candidates from Nigeria to South Korea are bidding to become the next director-general of the World Trade Organization to replace Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down at the end of August. CHALLENGES

The next chief will broker international trade talks in the face of widening U.S.-China conflict, protectionism increased by the COVID-19 pandemic and pressure to reform trade rules. U.S. President Donald Trump's "America First" policies have upended the global trading order and presented an existential threat to the WTO. Trump has called the institution "broken" and "horrible". His administration has blocked appointments to the WTO's Appellate Body that settles trade disputes, which now no longer has the minimum number of judges to convene.

HOW THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL IS CHOSEN An initial eight candidates were were given two months to campaign until September 7. Normally this would involve trips to national capitals, but with the pandemic much of that is being done in a virtual format.

The field was cut to five in September and will be whittled down to two in October before a final decision is taken. The WTO is a members-driven organisation with decisions reached by consensus among 164 countries. Three WTO ambassadors who chair leading committees are leading the process, seeking to establish which candidates have the widest support.

In so-called "confessionals", ambassadors step into a WTO room and tell their preferences to this "troika" whose faces appear on a screen due to COVID restrictions. The choices are not ranked and without vetoes. The second round takes plase on Sept 24-Oct 6. Voting on the next director-general is seen only as a last resort if consensus cannot be reached.

The process does not always work smoothly. In 1999, former New Zealand prime minister Mike Moore and Thailand's Supachai Panitchpakdi divided WTO members, with a compromise finally found to give each a term, shortened to three years from four. Azevedo's term finished before his replacement takes office, but WTO members failed to agree on a temporary caretaker director-general, meaning the four deputies are staying on in their current roles.

MORE SOFT THAN HARD POWER The Marrakesh Agreement that established the WTO in 1995 does not give a detailed description of the director-general role. The responsibilities should be "exclusively international in character".

The incoming chief will be expected to appoint four new deputies, present budget proposals, and chair the trade negotiations committee which oversees multilateral accords such as on fishing subsidies. The director-general can also intervene in trade disputes, in very rare cases offering mediation, more often by appointing people to adjudicating panels when parties cannot agree.

Otherwise, the director-general does not forge global trade policy, but is meant to act as a neutral broker: part administrator, part peacemaker.


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

New farm bills in India: Focusing on farms or farmers?

... ...

Kenya’s COVID-19 response: Chaos amid lack of information

Confusing numbers and scanty information on how effective curfews and lockdowns have been in breaking transmission have amplified coordination and planning challenges in Kenyas response to COVID-19. Without accurate data, it is impossible t...

Farkhad Akhmedov: Calculating the price of impunity from the law

In insistences such as the battle over the Luna, Akhmedov has resorted to extreme legal machinations to subvert the High Courts decision and keep his assets from being seized. ...

Guinea’s elections hearken back to the autocracy and violence of its past

... ...

Videos

Latest News

Julia Goerges retires from tennis at 31

Former Wimbledon semifinalist Julia Goerges announced her retirement from tennis Wednesday at the age of 31. The German reached her highest ranking of ninth in the world in 2018 and was ranked 45th at her retirement. Her most recent match w...

Asssam Forest department seizes railway engine for killing two elephants

Assam forest department on Wednesday seized the engine of a goods train for mowing down an elephant and its calf inside the Lumding Reserve forest area of the state. The engine was seized from the Bamunimaidan Railway Yard under Wildlife Pr...

Court orders FIR against Tomar, Nath for 'breach of COVID-19 norms'

The Gwalior bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court on Wednesday directed the magistrates of Datia and Gwalior districts to register an FIR against Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Congress leader Kamal Nath for allegedly violating COVID-...

Trump rape accuser expected in court for oral arguments

A woman who says President Donald Trump raped her in the 1990s was expected to be in court Wednesday to hear lawyers argue whether Trump can substitute the Justice Department for himself as the defendant in her defamation lawsuit. E. Jean C...

Give Feedback