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Phil Hogan confirms he's looking to run for the top job in the WTO

A departure by Hogan from the European Commission to the WTO would mean Ireland would have to nominate another commissioner.

EU Trade Commisioner Phil Hogan.
EU Trade Commisioner Phil Hogan.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Images

IRELAND’S EU TRADE Commissioner Phil Hogan has confirmed that he is looking at the possibility of running for the top job in the World Trade Organization. 

Hogan confirmed the news to reporters in Brussels this afternoon saying that he is “exploring” his candidacy to be director general of the WTO. 

Hogan has been Ireland’s representative in the European Commission since 2014, first as the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner before switching to the Trade portfolio last December. 

A departure by Hogan from the European Commission to the WTO would mean Ireland would have to nominate another commissioner. 

The race to replace Roberto Azevedo as director general of the WTO is expected to be a contest between Africans and Europeans, with the backing of the United States probably decisive in choosing a successor.

Hogan’s run has caught EU diplomats by surprise, coming just seven months after he took office as the EU’s trade commissioner and as trade battles rage with the US.

“I’m exploring the option of being a candidate for the director general of the WTO,” the former environment minister told reporters today.

I think that there is an important amount of work to be done to reform the organisation.

A European source told AFP that Hogan’s candidacy came at the urging of Germany, which is seeking a steady hand to lead the WTO at an especially sensitive time.

Hogan is hoping the EU will agree soon whether to run a single candidate, which would increase Europe’s chances of filling the job. The deadline to announce a candidacy is 8 July.

The WTO has faced an onslaught of criticism by the US under President Donald Trump, who has pushed for reforms of the Geneva-based body he accuses of turning a blind eye to China.

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Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s hard-charging trade boss, has successfully crippled the WTO’s dispute settlement court by blocking the appointment of new judges.

Hogan said he has made his possible candidacy known to Lighthizer who “is very much of the view that a developed country should assume the responsibility”.

African countries have meanwhile long insisted it should finally be their turn to head the organisation.

Several African names appear likely to be in the running, including former Egyptian diplomat Hamid Mamdou, who worked with the WTO for years, and Nigeria’s former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

© – AFP 2020 with reporting by Rónán Duffy

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