Dysfunction Deepens at the WTO



Bryce Baschuk | Bloomberg

Trade officials in Geneva on Friday failed to select an acting leader of the World Trade Organization to take over when current Director-General Roberto Azevedo steps down on Aug. 31.

WTO delegates couldn’t broker a consensus agreement this week after the U.S. demanded that an American, Alan Wolff, become interim director-general instead of Karl Brauner of Germany.

If the impasse continues into September it will leave the arbiter of international trade rules leaderless until WTO members select a new director-general for a four-year term — a process that is unlikely to wrap up until November and could potentially extend into 2021.

WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell downplayed the impact of the impasse in a press conference following the meeting.

“It’s not going to cause any real crisis in terms of the organization’s functioning,” he said. “Operationally, I don’t think it’s a big deal and I don’t think it will have an impact on the broader selection process.”

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