The current director-general of the organisation, Roberto Azevedo announced his intent to step down in August and Lord Mandelson has claimed he could fix the WTO. While Lord Mandelson insisted the organisation had worked well since its inception in 1995, he also claimed it must change under new leadership considering the criticism from Donald Trump and the uncertain future of international trade in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Writing in The Times, he claimed the organisation is “broken”.
He added: “I suggest three main virtues.
“First, in addition to updating the WTO’s rule making and dispute settlement functions, that they actually believe in trade liberalisation as something that advances economic progress rather than as something to be offered only as a last resort.
“Second, that trade liberalisation should be negotiated fairly and with respect for those countries with less economic muscle to advance their interests.
“And third, conscious of its human, social, and environmental consequences, trade liberalisation needs to operate within a framework of policy that mitigates its risks.
“The key thing is that we do not move from the undeniable truth that globalisation could work better to the false conclusion that we are better off without it.”
The WTO is an organisation made up of 164 member states and acts as a forum for negotiating trade agreements between countries.
Every member state has a minister and delegate who attempt to push the WTO’s principles of more open, competitive and beneficial trade for less developed countries.
Mr Trump has been a staunch critic of the organisation and has insisted the it is working in favour of countries such as China.
The President has also stated despite the WTO’s intent to lower barriers and increase trade, it also causes a reduction in domestic trade flow.
In retaliation to the alleged pro-China view, Washington undermined the dispute resolution model by blocking the nomination of judges.
However, 17 WTO members including the EU, China and Brazil have begun to set up a parallel court without the US.
The clash between the US and China has effectively crippled the ability to settle international trade disputes.
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Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this month, Mr Azevedo claimed criticism from the US President damages the legitimacy of the organisation itself.
“It’s damaging of course because it’s the largest economy in the world, it used to be the major champion of the multilateral rules, particularly in the WTO.
“So that kind of criticism without a proper response by the system is damaging.”
As it stands, Lord Mandelson and MP for North Somerset, Liam Fox have both put forward their credentials to take over the role.
The pair are on a shortlist of candidates with the deadline to decide the candidate falling next month.
One source told The Times that although Lord Mandelson had been in contact with UK ministers, it will be tough for the Remainer to receive the nomination.
The source said: “Peter has had some contact with ministers and it was positive but he realises that it is difficult for the government to nominate him as it would annoy some in their ranks.”
Former Cabinet Office minister, Lord Peter Lilley said: “Given UK voters have firmly rejected supranational political integration of the enabler of free trade, it would be odd indeed to appoint one of the high priests of that philosophy to the multilateral WTO.”