Daily Management Review

WTO Leadership Selection Is Critically Dependent On US President Elections


WTO Leadership Selection Is Critically Dependent On US President Elections
Ambassadors of 164 member countries with the World Trade Organization (WTO) met with senior officials for private ‘confessionals’ to convey who country supported as the head of the global trade regulator which indicated a push by the organization to select a new leader.
But according to six former WTO officials and trade experts quoted in reports, this effort could be a waste of time. This stage is just the first of a three-stage elimination process to select the head of the WHO head.
Analysts have said that the actual and decisive developments to select the future leader of the WTO are taking place in Washington in the United States.  
The efforts of the WTO to fill the gap left by Roberto Azevedo since he stepped down as director-general on Aug. 31 is over shadowed by the US presidential election to be held on Nov. 3. The efforts of the WTO to fill up the vacant top spot within the prescribed two months could be thwarted by the US elections.
According to analysts, it is unlikely that the administration of US President Donald Trump will provide any life line to the multilateral body that Trump had threatened to leave and this is more likely because of the ongoing election campaigning in the US in which trade is an important election issue. The support of the US of a particular candidate is crucial for the WTO to with the process of selection.
By blocking the appointment of members to WTO’s Appellate Body, the Trump administration has crushed the global trade regulator’s ability to intervene in disputes – a key part of its raison d’etre. At the same time Trump has also started a trade war with China and imposed tariffs on US allies.
“I find it hard to imagine that the Trump administration would shift tack and do something very positive for the system,” said David Tinline, a former adviser to Azevedo.
The US Trade Representative’s (USTR)’s office did not provide any comments on the issue to the media.
In June, the US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had told US lawmakers that that a reform-driven leader as needed at the WTO and the US would therefore would veto any candidate who showed ”any whiff of anti-Americanism”.
Another complicating factor is the US-China economic conflict. According to former WTO officials and trade experts, any candidate backed by the United States could be automatically rejected by China and vice versa.
It would participate constructively in the selection process , China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said previously in a statement.
”We are willing to work closely with all parties to elect a good director-general through full consultation, ensure a smooth handover and push the WTO to play a greater role in global economic governance,” the ministry said.
According to analysts, even though the WTO despite being a member driven organization, there is need for a strong leader with the ability of facilitating decision-making and this is important particularly at a time when there is a perception that global trade and globalization could be under attack on many fronts.