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    Ireland to Nominate EU Trade Chief Hogan for Top Post at WTO

    Abstract:Ireland is planning to nominate Phil Hogan, the European Unions chief trade negotiator, to be the next director-general of the World Trade Organization, according to a person with knowledge of the plan.

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      Phil Hogan

      Photographer: Olivier Matthys/Bloomberg

      Photographer: Olivier Matthys/Bloomberg

      Ireland is planning to nominate Phil Hogan, the European Unions chief trade negotiator, to be the next director-general of the World Trade Organization, according to a person with knowledge of the plan.

      Hogan had tentatively planned to announce his candidacy on Thursday but the timing is now fluid, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the preparations are private. The nomination window for candidates closes on July 8.

      The European Commissions chief spokesman, Eric Mamer, declined to comment when reached by phone. Mamer said it was a matter for Hogan and the Irish government.

      “Big Phil,” as the 6-foot-5 inch commissioner is known in Brussels, has a lengthy background handling WTO matters as the previous EU agriculture commissioner from 2014-2019 and now as the EUs point person on trade.

      Who Will Lead the WTO and Help It Avoid Collapse?: QuickTake

      That resume gives Hogan an edge because most delegations in Geneva say they want a candidate with the experience and authority to marshal broad support around the much-needed reform of the WTO, which is facing the greatest crisis of its 25-year history.

      Since December, Hogan has led an effort to backstop the WTOs now-inactive appellate body with an interim arbitration process and is pushing an initiative to reduce barriers to trade in medical goods and pharmaceutical products needed to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

      Powerful Job

      Hogan‘s announcement on June 9 that he was exploring the option of running to lead the WTO left many EU officials puzzled because the European trade commissioner’s job is among the most coveted and powerful of any political post in Europe.

      Plus, his five-year term began only seven months ago and his portfolio was packed with issues ranging from seeking a renewed commercial truce with the U.S. and pursuing a long-sought investment pact with China, to negotiating a free-trade accord with Australia and helping to keep post-Brexit Britain from crashing out of the European single market.

      A key hurdle in Hogan‘s nomination will be gaining approval from the Trump administration. That’s because confirmation of the WTOs director-general requires a consensus of all 164 members, and any member may veto a candidate for any reason.

      U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told lawmakers last week that the U.S. is looking for a candidate who:

    •   can pursue fundamental reform of WTO;

    •   understands that the current WTO is incapable of disciplining China;

    •   has no ‘whiff’ of anti-Americanism in their past actions.

      Hogan will also have to gain the support of the Chinese government, which has been irked by increased EU wariness about imports and investment from China.

      Hogan joins four other candidates to succeed WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo, who plans to step down on Aug. 31.

      Read More: The Hunt for a New WTO Chief May Lead to More Gridlock

      The WTOs selection procedure typically takes about six months and may well extend beyond the U.S. presidential election in November.

      During this time, the candidates will present themselves to the WTOs membership, campaign for support and sit for a question-and-answer session with the WTO General Council.

      Then the WTOs three highest-ranking delegates, known as “the troika,” will consult with the membership and try to build a consensus around a final candidate.

      (Adds details on timing in first two paragraphs)

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