Hogan withdraws from race to replace WTO director general

European Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan has announced his intention to withdraw his candidacy from the selection of nominees seeking to become the next director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

In a statement this morning, Monday, June 29, Commissioner Hogan – Ireland’s representative in the European Commission and former commissioner for agriculture and rural development – said:

“The WTO 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.

The commissioner said that the need for an independent “global referee” to bind the participants of trade agreements to rules and disciplines is now at its most important level since the foundation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1947.

Stressing that a new WTO director general should be appointed without delay, the commissioner noted 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”.

The current global trade challenges should require all members to work together. Regrettably this is not happening today.

The commissioner highlighted the EU’s priorities in terms of trade challenges, most notably: the economic recovery from Covid-19; the ongoing focus on EU-US trade difficulties; the need for a “level playing field” with China in negotiations towards an investment agreement in 2020; Brexit; and the implementation and enforcement of EU trade agreements.

“This important EU Trade Agenda requires the full and careful involvement of the EU and, in particular, the Trade Commissioner.

Accordingly, I have decided that I will not be putting my name forward for the position of Director-General of the WTO. I have informed the president of the commission today.

“In consultation and approval of President Von Der Leyen, I will return to my duties of Trade Commissioner with immediate effect. We will work together to implement our important work programme on behalf of our EU citizens as well as implementing our trade agenda with renewed vigour.”

Commissioner Hogan thanked European Commission President Von Der Leyen for her support on the matter, as well as the Irish Government and former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for agreeing to nominate him.

“This decision today will allow other potential candidates [including European nominees] to consider their candidacy before the close of nominations on the July 8, next,” the commissioner concluded.