By Emmanuel Oluebube, Corrrespondent UK
General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand has announced timelines for the next phases in the selection process to choose a successor to departing Director-General Roberto Azevêdo.
On May 14, Director-General Azevêdo informed the 164 WTO members that he would be stepping down from his post on 31 August 2020, one year before the expiry of his mandate. Under guidelines agreed by the General Council in December 2002, the General Council Chair is required to begin consultations with members on DG selection as soon as possible and “may establish expedited deadlines as necessary in consultation with Members.”
Following consultations with members, Amb. Walker announced on 20 May that a one-month timeframe had been agreed during which members could submit nominations for their candidates. That deadline expired on 8 July.
In recent weeks, Amb. Walker has been consulting with members on the next stages of the process. Under normal circumstances, the second phase of the process in which the candidates “make themselves known to members” would take three months. But following his discussions with members it has been agreed that the phase two “campaigning” phase will be shortened by one month and will expire on 7 September.
On that date, the third and final phase of the process will begin. Under this phase, Amb. Walker, together with the Chairs of the Dispute Settlement Body (Dacio Castillo of Honduras) and Trade Policy Review Body (Harald Aspelund of Iceland), will consult with all WTO members to assess their preferences and seek to determine which candidate is best placed to attract consensus support. This phase may involve more than one stage of consultations as members seek to narrow the field of candidates. Amb. Walker informed members that, as spelled out in the guidelines, the third Phase would last no more than two months.
“In order to provide clarity for both the candidates and the Membership regarding these timelines, we will therefore proceed with Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the appointment process following the expedited deadlines,” said Amb. Walker.
The General Council Chair said he will discuss with members the specific procedures for Phase 3 in the coming weeks.