Thwart U.S. veto or await new president? WTO has leadership dilemma

In this news, we discuss the Thwart U.S. veto or await new president? WTO has leadership dilemma.

BRUSSELS / WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Faced with a veto from the United States, the World Trade Organization has two unpleasant options for choosing its next leader – replacing its biggest payer with a vote or the hope of a change in US president and wait for it to take charge.

A few days before the US election, Donald Trump’s administration dealt another blow to the watchdog of global trade on Wednesday by rejecting Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the woman proposed by a nominating “troika” to be next. Director General of the WTO.

The woman who would be the first African leader of the WTO is also an American citizen.

In a brief statement, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said it supported rival candidate South Korea’s Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee as someone with practical experience in international trade.

A Geneva-based diplomat said Washington had changed leadership “chaotically” in the latest throes of the leadership race to back Yoo, blocking the process.

“It seems they were improvising,” the diplomat said.

William Reinsch, a former Commerce Department official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, predicted furious discussions behind the scenes to get the United States to change its position.

Trump has described the WTO as “horrible” and biased towards China and has threatened to leave and it is hard to imagine that his administration would agree to accept on November 9, when the WTO will hold a meeting to appoint its new one. chief.

Even if he loses the election, he will remain in office until January 20, making any quick resolution even less likely.

It would not be the first time that the WTO has encountered an obstacle to its leadership. He has in the past found ways to get around them.

In 1999, two candidates split among the members of the WTO and a compromise was finally found to give each one a mandate. New rules were then put in place to avoid repetition.

Candidates least likely to achieve consensus will “withdraw”, according to the 2003 regulations, with a “last resort” vote. Korea’s Yoo could step down, but her team did not respond to questions on their future intentions on Thursday.


A vote may seem like an easy fix, but it’s more of a nuclear option.

Simon Evenett, professor of commerce at the Swiss University of St. Gallen, said the large WTO members would see it as a bad precedent.

“Big guys like subtle vetoes. To lose a vote publicly is humiliating, ”he said.

Washington could see the use of the vote almost as an act of war. It is not even known how WTO members would decide to organize one.

This leaves one last possibility, based on a change of US president.

Rufus Yerxa, a former senior US trade official who now heads the National Foreign Trade Council, said the outcome of the US election would be decisive.

“For the people in Geneva trying to make this decision, the election will determine if they are going to be in another showdown … or if they can afford to wait for it and deal with the Biden administration,” a- he declared.

A senior US trade official has said that if Democratic challenger Joe Biden wins, WTO members would have to wait until he takes office. Biden, he added, would be eager to “get off on the right foot” with the WTO.

The United States has already disabled the WTO’s role as world trade arbiter by blocking appointments to its Appellate Body, which acts as a supreme trade court. Could he manage other months without a leader?

In theory, the role of the CEO is limited. He runs a secretariat of over 600 people, a job that current deputy directors general can do.

Pascal Lamy, Director General of the WTO from 2005 to 2013, asserts that the lack of clarity creates room for maneuver, subject to the acquiescence of WTO members.

“They can give you authority. It’s limited and rental. They don’t give it to you, they lend it to you. You need a vision and a desire to take this organization from A to B, ”he said.

This role, both facilitator and visionary, in multilateral trade would be absent.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Andrea Shalal; additional reports by Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay and Emma Farge in Geneva; edited by Mark John

Original © Thomson Reuters

Originally posted 2020-10-29 21:56:11.

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