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The World Trade Organization’s effort to select a leader entered a new stage this week as ambassadors from 164 member countries met with senior officials for private “confessionals” to say who they support, Emma Farge and Philip Blenkinsop reported for Reuters late on September 10, 2020.

But the politicking in Geneva, the first in a three-stage elimination process, could be a wasted effort according to six former WTO officials and trade experts. They say the decisive developments that will shape the future of the embattled global organization are unfolding thousands of miles away in Washington.

The US presidential election on Nov. 3 is overshadowing the WTO’s efforts to fill the gap left by Roberto Azevedo since he stepped down as director-general on Aug. 31 and it could end up thwarting the WTO’s aim of filling the vacant top spot within the prescribed two months.

The United States’ support for a particular candidate is critical but four trade experts including former WTO employees believe the administration of US President onald Trump is unlikely to throw a lifeline to a multilateral body the president has threatened to leave, particularly during an election campaign in which trade is a hot button issue. Trump has launched a trade war with China, imposed tariffs on US allies and crushed the WTO’s ability to intervene in disputes – a key part of its raison d’etre — by blocking the appointment of members to its Appellate Body.

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