European trade chief Phil Hogan mulls bid for WTO top job

Phil Hogan. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 June 2020

European trade chief Phil Hogan mulls bid for WTO top job

  • The new chief will also have to push forward talks to limit overfishing and set new rules on e-commerce

BRUSSELS: European trade commissioner Phil Hogan is considering putting his name forward as a candidate to be the next director-general of the World Trade Organization, his spokesman said on Sunday.

The WTO post will become vacant at the end of August after incumbent Roberto Azevedo said he would step down a year early.

The next director-general will be faced with intensifying US-China tensions and rising protectionism, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new chief will also have to push forward talks to limit overfishing and set new rules on e-commerce.

Hogan, an Irishman, has been a European commissioner since 2014, initially responsible for agriculture and since late 2019 for trade.

He told the European Parliament on Thursday that it would be “wonderful” if a European became the next head of the Geneva-based trade body.

Two other potential European candidates are Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya and Dutch Trade Minister Sigrid Kaag.

The issue could become a central topic of a meeting of EU ministers responsible for trade provisionally set for June 9. Europe could then put forward a single candidate.

WTO members can nominate their own nationals as candidates from June 8 to July 8.

With three of the previous six directors-general from Europe and the others from Thailand, Brazil and New Zealand, there is some pressure to choose a leader from Africa, with four names from the continent being cited.

Some in Europe though say that there is an unwritten rule at the WTO that the director-general post should alternate between the developed and developing world. Azevedo is Brazilian.

There is also a general consensus that the body itself needs reform, with critics saying it must take into account the rise of China and state-owned enterprises.

“He’s a strong supporter of a reform agenda for the WTO,” Hogan’s spokesman said.


Turkey on brink of recession as economy collapses

Updated 13 August 2020

Turkey on brink of recession as economy collapses

  • Consumer debt has increased by 25 percent to more than $100 billion in the past three months

JEDDAH: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s popularity is plunging in lockstep with Turkey’s collapsing economy and the country is on the verge of a potentially devastating recession, financial experts have told Arab News.
The value of the Turkish lira has fallen to 7.30 against the US dollar and the central bank has spent $65 billion to prop up the currency, according to the US investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Consumer debt has increased by 25 percent to more than $100 billion in the past three months as the government moved to help families during the coronavirus pandemic, but the result has been a surge in inflation to 12 percent.
With the falling lira and increased price of imported goods, the living standards of many Turks who earn in lira but have dollar debts have fallen sharply.
The economy is expected to shrink by about 4 percent this year. The official unemployment rate remains at 12.8 percent because layoffs are banned, although many experts say the real figures are far higher.
To complete the perfect storm, tourism revenues and exports have been decimated by the pandemic, and foreign capital has fled amid fears over economic trends and the independence of the central bank.
Wolfango Piccoli, of Teneo Intelligence in London, said logic dictated an increase in interest rates but “this is unlikely to happen.”
Piccoli said central bank officials would strive to avoid an outright rate hike at their monetary policy meeting on Aug. 20. “A mix of controlled devaluation and backdoor policies, such as limiting Turkish lira’s liquidity, remains their preferred approach,” he said.
There is speculation of snap elections, and Erdogan’s view is that higher interest rates cause inflation, despite considerable economic evidence to the contrary.