World Trade Organization chief steps down early

Fri 15 May 2020
Posted by: Sam Pileggi
Trade News

Roberto Azevedo

Roberto Azevedo, who will leave the post of World Trade Organization director general a year early in August this year. 

The head of the World Trade Organization, the body that regulates international trade between nations, has announced he is to step down a year ahead of schedule, later this year. 

Brazilian former diplomat Roberto Azevedo was in his second term as WTO director general but the 62-year-old will leave the job on 31 August. 

The Geneva-based organisation sets and polices adherence to ‘WTO rules’ – agreements negotiated with and signed by most of the world’s trading nations, and ratified by their parliaments. 

China-US trade tensions

Azevedo’s decision to end his tenure early comes at a time when the WTO is attempting to referee a growing trade stand-off between the US and China, during a global economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Bloomberg quoted Azevedo explaining his early departure as “a family decision” and that it was “the best thing for me, my family and the organization”.

Azevedo had been working in lockdown after knee surgery.

However, he added that his decision was not for health reasons or to pursue another position. “We are doing nothing now – no negotiations, everything is stuck. There’s nothing happening in terms of regular work.”

Bloomberg also reports that the search for Azevedo’s successor has begun in earnest, with the US and EU “moving quickly” with their preferred candidates.