TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov16/09)
7 November 2016
Third World Network

DG selection (reappointment) process gets a pre-emptive start

Published in SUNS #8348 dated 4 November 2016

Geneva, 3 Nov (D. Ravi Kanth) - In what seems to be a coordinated development, the World Trade Organization General Council chair Ambassador Harald Neple of Norway on Thursday (3 November) issued a Job (informal) document laying out the selection process for the next director-general in which he has included a letter written by the current director-general Roberto Azevedo that he wants to serve for a second term, according to the document reviewed by the SUNS.

The three-page Job document issued by the GC chair (Job/GC/109) includes two parts. Part I says, "since the term of office of the Director-General, Mr Roberto Azevedo, comes to an end on 31 August 2017, the process for the appointment of a Director-General must begin on 1 December 2016."

"Accordingly, with the present letter I wish to formally notify Members of the opening of the appointment process as from 1 December," the GC chair said.

"The Procedures also provide that where a serving Director-General decides to seek reappointment, he should so notify the General Council Chair before the start of the process, and shall thereby be considered to be a candidate," Ambassador Neple said.

"The Chair should inform Members of the candidature of the incumbent Director-General, in order that they may take this into consideration in submitting their nominations," Ambassador Neple maintained.

"Accordingly, I wish to inform Members that I have received a communication from the Director-General (copy attached) notifying me of his decision to seek reappointment for a further term," the GC chair said.

He also referred to the announcement made by the Director-General at the meeting of the General Council on 27 July this year.

The GC chair informed members about how he will be assisted "in the appointment process by the Chairpersons of the Dispute Settlement Body and the Trade Policy Review Body acting as facilitators. They will be, during the remainder of my term until February next year, Ambassador Xavier Carim (South Africa) and Ms Irene B. K. Young (Hong Kong, China), respectively."

Ambassador Neple has indicated the following timelines for the appointment beginning with the "nominations and supporting information" under which members will have one month to nominate their candidates, i.e. from 1 to 31 December 2016.

"In order to ensure that they are properly received and distributed, nominations and supporting information should be submitted to me either by hand or sent to the above address only by express mail, registered mail or courier service (Swiss Post, DHL, FedEx, UPS, TNT, DPD, etc.) .... In line with the official and confidential nature of the nomination process, please note that nominations and supporting information received by e-mail or fax will NOT be accepted," the GC chair maintained.

Since the WTO starts its year-end closure on 23 December inclusive, "nominations during the period of 23-31 December should be sent only by express mail, registered mail or courier service (Swiss Post, DHL, FedEx, UPS, TNT, DPD, etc.)," he said.

Subsequently, the chair along with the chairs of the Dispute Settlement Body and the Trade Policy Review Body will consult meetings with the candidates, including making presentations at the General Council.

Finally, the appointment process will conclude with a General Council meeting convened not later than three months prior to the expiry of the incumbent's term, i.e. not later than 31 May 2017, at which a decision to appoint the Director-General must be taken.

The GC chair's Job document also includes a one-page letter by the DG in which he informed members as to how the organization achieved a "great deal" during his term starting from 1 September 2013. "We have demonstrated we can deliver major negotiated outcomes, with the successful conclusion of the ministerial conferences in Bali in 2013 and Nairobi in 2015," Azevedo said.

[Azevedo often claimed credit that the Bali ministerial meeting delivered the $1.0 trillion Trade Facilitation Agreement and the Nairobi ministerial meeting delivered the $1.3 trillion ITA-II agreement. Both these agreements were at the heart of the US trade agenda.]

He claimed that significant improvements were made in the dispute settlement system and other bodies of the WTO. He said more needs to be done in the global trading system in the coming years for all members, "particularly for developing and least-developed countries."

On the negotiating front, said Azevedo, "members have committed to advancing the remaining Doha issues, while many have raised other issues for discussion." Against this backdrop, he said he is ready to serve "as a director-general for second term."

The GC chair's Job document and the one-page statement from Azevedo for serving a second term seem pretty well-coordinated to preempt any likely challenge from other developing countries who feel that the current director-general singularly and single-handedly worked to promote the priorities of a major industrialized country, said a trade envoy who asked not to be quoted.

Recently, the US Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman showered praise on Azevedo's role in shaping the Nairobi ministerial outcome along with the chair of the tenth ministerial conference Ms Amina Mohamed, Kenya's cabinet secretary.

Ambassador Froman praised "Amina Mohamed (Kenya's cabinet secretary) and Roberto Azevedo (WTO's director-general) for shepherding that process" at the WTO's 10th ministerial meeting in Nairobi - "which represented a critical turning point in the history of the WTO".

[With the US having set a "remarkable" precedent in vetoing a second term for a retiring AB member, and more recently insisting on this right (to say 'no' to a second term) for itself, it remains to be seen how the DG reappointment process will turn out, adds Chakravarthi Raghavan, Editor-Emeritus of the SUNS, in a comment. - SUNS]