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ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO has issued the following statement in response to the announcement that WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo will step down from his position in August 2020:

“I want to sincerely thank Director General Azevêdo for his exemplary leadership of the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the last seven years. The business community is naturally saddened by the announcement of his decision to depart the organisation one year before his term expires.

“During Director General Azevêdo’s tenure, the organisation has faced many challenges, but has also delivered some significant results. I know he is rightly proud of the conclusion of the historic Trade Facilitation Agreement – a deal that has the potential to make globalisation more inclusive by removing unnecessary costs and delays in international trade.

“Director General Azevêdo’s departure comes at a critical time for the organisation and the global trading system. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the WTO was already facing significant pressures – and ICC has been clear on the need for a comprehensive reform process to align the multilateral trading system with the realities of 21st Century commerce. Under the Director General’s leadership, there have been important practical moves towards reform – including through the use of flexible negotiating structures – but clearly much work remains to be done.

“From a business perspective the strategic importance of the WTO system has only been reinforced by the COVID-19 crisis – not least as a vital defense against unfettered protectionism. I applaud Director General Azevêdo’s foresight and selflessness in avoiding any risk that a leadership election next year could distract from the essential decisions governments will need to take to build a more resilient trading system – and, moreover, set firm foundations for renewed economic growth.

“I outlined earlier today how governments can fully utilise trade policy to help businesses weather the ongoing economic crisis and enable a rapid economic recovery as demand returns to the economy. A renewal of the multilateral trading system will be central to delivering on this vision and governments have no room for error in this regard. In this context, we urge all member states to consider the importance business attributes to the WTO when selecting Director General Azevêdo’s successor.

“I look forward to continuing ICC’s collaboration with Director General Azevêdo through the remainder of his tenure – starting with the WTO ICC B20 Trade Dialogues Business Roundtable on 19 May.

“On behalf of the global business community, I wish Roberto all the very best for the next stage in his career. “

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