News | Published July 09 2020

UK government nominates Liam Fox for WTO role

The UK government has named Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Liam Fox as its official nominee to lead the World Trade Organization.

The WTO is seeking a new director-general to replace the outgoing Roberto Azevedo, who will stand down on August 31.

Announcing the government’s decision, international trade secretary Liz Truss tweeted: “Delighted to confirm that the UK will be nominating Liam Fox to be the next director-general of the WTO.

“We need a fierce champion of free and fair trade, an advocate of multilateralism and someone able to get things done. Liam brings all that to the table.”

Fox said that he was "honoured" to receive the nod for the UK nomination, adding: "I believe that if we want to keep the WTO relevant and vibrant our task is clear: Update, strengthen and reform.

"We must ensure that global trade works for everyone."

Former defence secretary Fox is a known Brexiteer and has close connections with the Republican Party in the US.

Fox is likely to fight his campaign to be elected director-general on the basis of rebuilding bridges between the organisation and the White House following recent disputes.

The Trump administration argues that the WTO has long mistreated the US and has blocked the appointment of new judges.

The news of Fox's nomination comes as a disappointment to former Labour cabinet minister Lord Mandelson who was pursuing the role, but was informed by Truss that he would not be put forward as UK nominee due to his anti-Brexit views, the Financial Times reported.

Mandelson said in response: “Nominating me would probably annoy some in Tory ranks who are more tribal Britain than global Britain but I hoped my experience and credentials would outweigh political considerations.

“I am sure the WTO will find someone else qualified to lead the organisation.”

UK-EU trade is set to default to World Trade Organization terms if both sides fail to agree a trade deal by the end of the year, when the post-Brexit transition period lapses.

The WTO leadership contest also comes at a critical time for global trade, after it has been severely hampered by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

WTO member countries had until 17:00 BST on Wednesday to name their candidates, with voting to begin later in the year.

Other candidates in the running include Kenya's culture minister Amina Mohamed, Egypt's Hamid Mamdouh, Moldovan Tudor Ulianovschi, Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea, Mexico’s Jesús Seade Kuri, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from Nigeria.

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Authored by

Alexander Bridge-Wilkinson
Junior Editor
July 09 2020

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