IF Phil Hogan confirms his candidacy to lead the World Trade Organization it will come at a time when the global trade body is on the brink of meltdown.
The US has blocked the appointment of judges to the WTO's dispute settlement arm, there is a budget crisis looming, and trade wars are growing internationally, most notably between China and the US. On top of all this, there is currently a bill in Congress that would see the US withdraw altogether from the global trading body.
Last December the organisation faced its biggest crisis since its inception in 1995 when Washington froze its Appellate Body, which acts as a supreme court for international trade, by blocking appointments for over two years. Two of the body’s three judges came to the end of their terms in December, leaving it unable to issue rulings. In January the European Union, China and 15 other WTO members agreed to create a temporary mechanism to settle trade disputes.
But that sticking plaster will not mend the fundamental faults within the organisation. Many of its members believe the WTO needs to reform to reflect changes in the global economy, including the rise of China.
For nearly 25 years, the organisation has played a crucial role in mediating international trade disputes and was expected to become even more crucial in a post Brexit world.
If Phil Hogan becomes head of the WTO, he will have his work cut out to ensure it remains relevant to global trade.