Coronavirus: WTO head steps down a year early as downturn looms

The head of the World Trade Organization has said he will step down a year earlier than planned, at a crucial moment for the global economy.

Roberto Azevedo’s surprise departure comes as the WTO faces the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and criticism from US President Donald Trump, BBC reported..

Global trade has slumped and the world is braced for the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump has accused the body of treating America unfairly.

Mr Azevedo said his early departure as the WTO’s director-general was a “personal decision” that was in the best interests of the organisation.

“The WTO may not be perfect, but it is indispensable all the same. It is what keeps us from a world where the law of the jungle prevails, at least as far as trade is concerned.”

The Trump administration has repeatedly accused the global trade watchdog of having strayed from its purpose to liberalise and protect markets, and that conditions around China’s entry into the organisation in 2001 have led to millions of American job losses, BBC reported.

Mr Azevedo’s departure comes at an especially difficult time for the WTO, with global trade expected to slump to historic lows as measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 shut down economic activity around the world.

Along with the US, other WTO members, including Japan and the European Union, have pushed for the WTO to make far-reaching reforms.

They argue that global trading rules need to reflect new realities, notably the rise of China as a powerful economy, and address problems such as state subsidies and forced technology transfers.