The sudden decision by the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to step down 1 year before the end of his term of office has prompted an immediate process of candidate selection. Consultations were recently held with member states to define the rules for the stages leading up to the consensus appointment of the new head of the institution. However, no agreement has been reached on the appointment of a deputy managing director to act as interim CEO.
In mid-July, the eight candidates* wishing to lead the WTO made their presentations and answered questions from the organization's General Council in Geneva. The campaign phase, currently underway, will come to an end on September 7. The process of narrowing down the list of candidates will then begin. Consultations led by the Chairmen of the General Council, Ambassador David Walker of New Zealand, the Dispute Settlement Body, Ambassador Dacio Castillo of Honduras, and the Trade Policy Review Body, Harald Aspelund of Iceland, will enable candidates to be eliminated. In this way, the number of candidates will be gradually reduced from eight to five, and to two for the final round.
Of the four WTO deputy directors, the appointment of Karl Brauner from Germany as interim director seemed to be a foregone conclusion. The Nigerian deputy was automatically "eliminated" due to the candidacy of economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, of the same origin. The choice of a senior Chinese or American official did not seem appropriate, given the differences between the two countries. In the end, it was decided to extend the mandates of all the deputies in the absence of an agreement between the members. The United States reportedly tried to impose its national, Alan Wolff. According to the organization's spokesman, Keith Rockwell, the interim phase should last no more than two to three months.
The next world trade chief's priorities will include re-establishing the functioning of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), which has been paralyzed due to the lack of replacement judges, as opposed by Washington, as well as preparing for the organization's 12th Ministerial Conference in Kazakhstan in 2021 and updating the WTO's rules.
* For the record, the eight candidates include three Africans (Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria), two Europeans (Moldavia, United Kingdom), one Asian (Republic of Korea), one Arab (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and one South American (Mexico).