Director-General of the World Trade Organization announces resignation from post one year before 4-year term ends.

May 14, 2020

In a statement released by the World Trade Organization (WTO), its Director-General Roberto Azevedo, will be quitting his position effective August 31, 2020 – one year before the completion of his second four-year term.

“This is a decision that I do not take lightly,” Azevedo said. “Between the lockdown and my recent knee surgery, I have had more time than usual for reflection… I am convinced that this decision serves the best interests of this Organization.”

The 62-year old Brazilian diplomat said his decision to resign is not related to health issues and made clear that his uncertain future does not include pursuing political opportunities.

“Regardless of how fulfilling these last 7 years have been for me, I must now end this cycle. As members start to shape the WTO’s agenda for the new post-COVID realities, they should do so with a new Director-General,” he said.

Acknowledging the organization is flawed, Azevedo nonetheless defended it by stating, “The WTO may not be perfect, but it is indispensable all the same. It is what keeps us from a world where the law of the jungle prevails, at least as far as trade is concerned.”

The WTO was established 25 years ago in 1995. Its primary objective is to regulate international trade between nations and resolve any disputes.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been a vocal critic of the organization, calling it “broken” and accused it of allowing other nations to cheat the system.

In a tweet posted in July 2019, President Trump wrote:

“The WTO is BROKEN when the world’s RICHEST countries claim to be developing countries to avoid WTO rules and get special treatment. NO more!!! Today I directed the U.S. Trade Representative to take action so that countries stop CHEATING the system at the expense of the USA!”

The Trump’s administration also repeated those same statements:

“When the wealthiest economies claim developing-country status, they harm not only other developed economies but also economies that truly require special and differential treatment. Such disregard for adherence to WTO rules, including the likely disregard of any future rules, cannot continue to go unchecked.“

In August, frustrated with the organization’s handling of trade matters, Trump threatened to pull out of the WTO.

Trump said that the WTO played a vital role in allowing China to rip off the United States for many years, and accused the organization of treating America unfairly.

“We know that they have been screwing us for years,” Trump told a crowd of his supporters at the time. “And it’s not going to happen any longer.”

When asked about Azevedo’s resignation, Trump said he was “OK with it,” and reiterated that the U.S. has “been treated very badly… They treat China as a developing nation. Therefore China gets a lot of the benefits that the US doesn’t get.”

Last week, Republican Senator Josh Hawley said he was pushing congress to vote on a resolution to withdraw from the World Trade Organization, 

The Director-General’s departure comes at a time when the world faces and economic crisis due to government measures taken to slow the spread of Covid-19.