China and the United States of America are once again set for a clash after the US insists on its candidate to succeed outgoing Director-General Roberto Azevedo in interim capacity pending the choosing of a substantive DG.
This decision is reported not to be going down well with China and Europe.
According to reports, the US has been pushing its candidate, Alan Wolff and this has paralyzed the process with high-level intense consultations ongoing.
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“They jumped into the fray. The Americans are saying they want an American, but China and Europe put the brakes on that,” said a former WTO official familiar with the current process.
As a result of this impasse, The World Trade Organization will likely not appoint an interim chief to succeed outgoing Azevedo in late August, insider sources disclosed amidst worrying concerns.
“If we can’t even decide on the interim, how will we choose a DG?” one of the delegates said.
In a bid to avoid a leadership void, WTO members were due to select an acting chief from among Azevedo’s deputies to take over from the Brazilian on Friday while they consider eight candidates vying to head the global trade watchdog, which is facing an acute crisis amid rising U.S.-China tensions and intense criticism from Washington.
Under the new proposal, four deputies – from the United States, China, Germany, and Nigeria – would keep their current responsibilities, instead of one being named to act as interim chief until Azevedo’s replacement is chosen later this year.
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A decision to finalize the interim arrangement is expected on Friday when WTO members are due to meet. A new, permanent director-general is expected to be named by November 7, 2020, a timeframe that could allow for input following the U.S. election.
While trade insiders have praised Wolff’s extensive experience, many consider the choice to be controversial, partly because of geopolitical tensions.
Recall that Washington is at loggerheads with another key member, China, which has in turn paralyzed the WTO’s top appeals court by blocking the appointment of new judges. U.S. President Donald Trump has even suggested quitting the body, although no firm plans have been announced.