EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan said Monday he will not seek to become head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) because Europe’s in-tray is full and requires his undivided attention.
Hogan said in a statement the European Union faced a series of challenges, including recovery from the coronavirus crisis, trade disputes with the United States, relations with China and finalising a Brexit accord with London by an October deadline.
“This important EU Trade Agenda requires the full and careful involvement of the European Union and in particular, the Trade Commissioner,” he said.
“Accordingly, I have decided that I will not be putting my name forward for the position of Director-General of the World Trade Organization,” he said.
Hogan, 60, became a candidate earlier this month backed by the Irish government but a European source said the former EU agriculture commission had upset some member states during his 2014-19 tenure.
At the same time, he had only taken up the trade commissioner post recently, raising eyebrows that he would be ready to leave Brussels so soon after his appointment to one of the bloc’s top jobs.
WTO head Roberto Azevedo announced he was stepping down earlier this month for family reasons, with the deadline for candidate submissions set for July 8.
Five candidates are in the running after Hogan’s withdrawal: Mexico’s former WTO deputy director-general Jesus Seade Kuri; former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; former Egyptian diplomat Hamid Mamdou; former Moldovan foreign minister Tudor Ulianovschi and South Korea Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee.
“This decision today will allow other potential candidates (including European nominees) to consider their candidacy before the close of nominations,” Hogan said in the statement.
“The EU will work constructively with the new Director-General of the WTO to achieve our mutual objectives,” he added.