Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan cites Brexit and EU trade agenda in decision to withdraw WTO candidacy

Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan cites Brexit and EU trade agenda in decision to withdraw WTO candidacy
EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan.

Former Environment Minister Phil Hogan has announced he is withdrawing from the race to become the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

The former Carlow-Kilkenny TD says that he is doing so to return to his full duties as EU Trade Commissioner immediately.

In a statement, Mr Hogan said that the WTO is "in crisis" and said the recent retirement of Director General Roberrto Azevedo should be seen as a chance for world leaders to "make changes to the rules, the functions and structure of WTO in order to meet the demands of 21st century trade".

Mr Hogan said that the appointment of Mr Azevedo's replacement should be done without delay, but said it was evident this was not going to happen.

"A new Director-General of the WTO should be appointed without delay. However, in recent days, it has become evident that the original timeline for this appointment in early September 2020 will be delayed and therefore create uncertainty in the leadership of the organisation at this critical time.

"The current global trade challenges should require all members to work together. Regrettably this is not happening today."

Mr Hogan went on to say that the EU's trade work required the "full and careful" involvement of the full union, particularly the Trade Commissioner.

"Accordingly, I have decided that I will not be putting my name forward for the position of Director-General of the World Trade Organisation. I have informed the President of the Commission today. In consultation and approval of President Von Der Leyen, I will return to my duties of Trade Commissioner with immediate effect. We will work together to implement our important work programme on behalf of our EU Citizens as well as implementing our Trade Agenda with renewed vigour.

"I am grateful to the Irish Government and in particular, former Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar for agreeing to nominate me. I have also considered carefully the views of Heads of Government and Trade Ministers in reaching this decision.

"The EU will work constructively with the new Director-General of the WTO to achieve our mutual objectives. My best wishes to the candidates in the coming months."


Mr Hogan listed the following trade issues facing the European Union as the cause of his decision to remain in his current post as EU Commissioner for Trade.

  • Europe's economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic. 

  • The October deadline for Brexit negotiations which Mr Hogan described as "ambitious".

  • The need to provide a level playing field with China as part of the negotiations towards an Investment Agreement in 2020. 


  • The recent escalation of trade rhetoric and the "unnecessary" imposition of tariffs on EU goods by the US requires ongoing focus and is "unacceptable."


  • The implementation and enforcement of the EU's Free Trade Agreements in 76 countries around the world.



The closing date for candidates is July 8.

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