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Désignation de la nouvelle directrice de l'OMC - entre droit et politique comme à l'accoutumée

Abstract : The World Trade Organization (WTO), established in 1994 as a successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), has a governing structure called the "Director-General". Their appointment did not pose any major legal and/or political problems until 2021. The procedure for appointing a Director-General is explicitly specified in Article VI of the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization. In this respect, however, the actual appointment of the first Directors-General from 1994 to 2004 was somewhat unusual. Both the first Director-General of the WTO, who was already in place as a Director in the GATT, and who remained, at the request of the contracting parties, to ensure continuity between the two organisations. In 2002, WTO members adopted a resolution, organising the appointment of each Director-General for the future. From that date onwards, the following Directors-General were appointed successively for four years, following difficult negotiations due to political and regional oppositions between members concerning their effective representation within the WTO. The appointment of Directors-General is made not only according to the procedure established in 2002, but also in a way that is specific to the WTO, which is the adoption of a decision by consensus. This method assumes that no member of the organisation objects to an appointment. From 2005 to 2017, two Directors-General were appointed, and their terms were renewed once. However, before the end of the second term of the last Director-General, Roberto Azavêdo, he submitted his resignation, which he justified with the proximity of the next WTO Ministerial Conference, which he did not want to interfere with the appointment of the next Director. But this resignation came in a delicate political and economic context due to the stances of US President Trump and the COVID-19 crisis. This resignation provoked a real crisis for the appointment of the next Director. Initially, the President of the General Council, David Walker, announced that there were eight candidates, presented by members from different continents, including three women. The number of candidates and the presence of female candidates was rather exceptional. As the nomination process progressed and consensus was used, candidates, both male and female, from different continents, particularly from Africa, were eliminated. Finally, two last candidates remained – a South Korean and a Nigerian – and from that point on, the nomination system was blocked owing to the United States’ refusal to accept that a nomination be made for the candidate who had the best chance of obtaining a consensus on their name as Director-General. In this case, it was the Nigerian candidate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was backed by many members and who also had the support of various regional organisations such as the African Union and the European Union. To resolve this blockage, David Walker postponed the General Council meeting several times allowing a decision by consensus on the appointment of the future Director-General, as if he wanted to wait for the result of the American presidential election, scheduled for November 2020, in the hope of a change of president. Following the positive result of the US election for the WTO in favour of Joe Biden, it was not until 5 February that a solution appeared to the ongoing blockage, with the official withdrawal of the South Korean candidate. The next day, the General Council met in extraordinary session to officially nominate the Nigerian candidate. Will this difficult nomination mark the future of the WTO ?
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Submitted on : Wednesday, January 26, 2022 - 11:00:11 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 27, 2022 - 3:34:59 AM


Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0 International License


  • HAL Id : hal-03543698, version 1



Batyah Sierpinski. Désignation de la nouvelle directrice de l'OMC - entre droit et politique comme à l'accoutumée. Civitas Europa, Institut de recherches sur l'évolution de la Nation et de l'État IRENEE (Université de Lorraine), 2021, Dossier spécial : les questions écrites au gouvernement, pp.219-239. ⟨hal-03543698⟩



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