The future direction of the World Trade Organization (“WTO”) hinges not only on the consensus agreement of the Members in appointing the WTO’s next Director-General, but also on the ability of that Director-General to forge a path forward to resolve the myriad issues currently facing the organization.

In August of this year, Roberto Azevêdo stepped down from his position as WTO Director-General, leaving his post open and eight candidates from around the globe in the running.  After months of campaigning, this pool was narrowed to two candidates: Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Korea’s Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee. On 28 October 2020, the WTO Committee Chairs of the selection process announced that Ms. Okonjo-Iweala was the candidate with the widest support. However, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala must be formally appointed by consensus by the General Council; a prospect that remains tenuous in light of the opposition of the United States. The United States was the only WTO Member to say that it would not support Ms. Okonjo-Iweala, but instead has reiterated that Minister Yoo “must” lead the WTO.  See USTR Statement on the WTO Director-General Selection Process.Continue Reading A New Year and a Potential New Era for the WTO

With the results of the US presidential election now clear, many in Washington and around the world are beginning to contemplate what international trade policy might look like after President Elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. takes office in January 2021. Predicting that policy is difficult, since international trade issues did not take center stage during the presidential campaign. However, statements the President Elect made during the campaign, prevailing sentiments in Congress, and Biden’s reputation as a believer in multilateral institutions developed during his nearly five decades in public office, offer some clues as to the broad outlines of his international trade policy. Overall, we expect that the Biden Administration will signal more predictability and a more rules-based multilateral orientation for US international trade policy than its predecessor. At the same time, it will be difficult to unwind some Trump Administration trade policies that enjoy political support, and in certain areas, we are likely to see significant policy continuity in the short- to medium-term.
Continue Reading Client Advisory: The US Trade Agenda in the Biden Administration