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WTO faces leadership vacuum amid growing protectionism, COVID-19 fallout
Updated: 2020-07-10 15:31:36 KST
Shifting away from the values of multilateralism and collaboration, the world is evolving towards protectionism.
Global leaders have questioned the importance of deepening economic ties beyond their own borders.
With increasing economic uncertainty, the role of the World Trade Organization has become crucial in rebuilding the post-COVID-19 world.
But with the international community now lacking clear leadership, the WTO's top job has opened up one year earlier than expected as director general Ricardo Azevedo has decided to step down.
Facing an identity crisis, it seems the international trade body needs momentum for reform.
For an in-depth look into this, we have Professor Yang Jun-sok from the Catholic University of Korea joining us in the studio.
Welcome to the program.

Happy to be here.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump called the WTO "broken," saying that countries like China have taken advantage of it. This is damning criticism, but it has pushed pundits to acknowledge that while there is no alternative to the WTO, the organization needs change. What do economists see as some of the changes needed within economic institutions like the WTO?

The global coronavirus outbreak has affected economies in most parts of the world and has highlighted the need to cooperate in order recover from the economic fallout. Could the pandemic be seen as an opportunity for the global economy to restart?

What needs to happen for the WTO and governments to be able to work together in building more resilient post-pandemic trade links. How can countries better prepare for future shocks, like another pandemic?

As the U.S. may be ready to sit on the sidelines as it focuses on "nation-building" at home, how do you expect China to push forward in taking a leadership role in the global economy?

On the topic of China wanting to take the reigns Hong Kong, as a separate contracting party, is a founding member of the WTO. Since the very recent return of Hong Kong to Mainland China, Hong Kong still remains a member of the WTO in its own right, but now uses "Hong Kong, China" as its official name. After years of being an externally-oriented economy, it is of great importance to Hong Kong that it has a strong and credible multilateral trading system. What sort of impact do you expect China's increase in power to have on the role and standing of "Hong Kong, China" within the WTO?

What other players should we look out for in the reformation of a post-COVID-19 global economy?

The current director general of the WTO, Roberto Azevedo from Brazil, said he will leave the organization on August 31st a year before his mandate was due to expire. There is a sense of alarm and urgency as this comes at a time when the institution is going through, what we could call, an identity crisis. Though Azevedo has cited personal reasons, is this really the right time to step down?

The nomination period has closed for the 2020 director-general selection. And South Korea's current trade minister, Yoo Myung-hee has made the short list as one of the eight candidates. What is it about trade minister Yoo that makes her a strong contender, do you think?

Alright, deep insight into where WTO stands now, thank you for your comments today, we really appreciate it.
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