The head of the World Trade Organization said Thursday he will cut short his second term in office short by a year, leaving on August 31 during a troubled time for the WTO, Anadolu agency reports.
Director-General Roberto Azevedo plans to step down before his term ends in 2021, Bloomberg reported late on Wednesday, citing four people familiar with the matter.
"This is a decision that I do not take lightly", Azevedo told member state representatives, according to a written version of his speech.
"Despite the many shortcomings of the WTO, Roberto has led the institution with grace and a steady hand", Lighthizer said in a statement. The organization announced his decision soon thereafter. "It is a personal decision - a family decision - and a decision, I believe, that serves the best interests of this organization".
European Union trade commissioner Phil Hogan said it was a good time to find a new chief but this needed to be done this year not next as the WTO was encountering major challenges and louder voices demanding reform.
He said that the current slowdown in activity due to measures taken to curb the COVID-19 pandemic offered an opportune time to seek his replacement.
His departure comes at a hard time for the WTO, which is charged with setting global rules for trade between member states.
His departure will be effective on September 1 and comes during a period of attack on the organization by US President Donald Trump.
During his first term he dedicated much energy to trying to unblock long-deadlocked trade agreements.
Canada's trade minister is thanking the departing head of the World Trade Organization for his help trying the reform the troubled referee for global trade. Azevedo said his departure would allow a successor to be in place before then.
U.S. President Donald Trump has regularly criticised the world trade body, calling it "broken" and "unfair".
His departure comes at a testing period for the 25-year-old body, which has seen its role in settling disputes undermined after its Appellate Body was paralysed in December by Washington's decision to block the appointment of judges.
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