KU News Service

World Trade Organization leader's resignation marks crossroad for global trade, expert says

Fri, 05/15/2020

LAWRENCE — World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevêdo announced Thursday his resignation, surprising the international trade community and adding to uncertainty caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. Azevêdo will serve until Aug. 31, though his second four-year term was not set to expire until 2021. Raj Bhala, an international trade law expert at the University of Kansas, is available to speak with media about Azevêdo’s departure and the ramifications it will have for world trade.

Azevêdo and the WTO have largely been at odds with the Trump administration as the director-general and organization advocate for international cooperation. Bhala, the Brenneisen Distinguished Professor of Law at the KU School of Law, can discuss the decision to step down, how it will affect international trade, possible successors as director-general, the work of the World Trade Organization, conflicts between the WTO and the Trump administration, and related topics.

“This director-general shepherded the WTO through the most turbulent period in world trade since the end of the Second World War,” Bhala said. “In every one of the WTO’s main functions, and on every significant issue, Mr. Azevêdo dealt with controversy amidst rising tides of trade protectionism and economic nationalism. In the process for choosing his successor, we will see whether members are serious about reinvigorating this international organization or acquiesce to its continued atrophy.”

Bhala is a world-renowned expert in international trade law and has worked in more than 25 countries around the globe. He has written dozens of books and journal articles on international trade, including the acclaimed four-volume “International Trade Law: A Comprehensive Textbook,” now in its fifth edition and the two-volume treatise “Modern GATT Law” and “TPP Objectively: Legal, Economic, and National Security Dimensions of CPTPP,” second edition. He also writes a regular column, “On Point,” for Bloomberg Quint in India. Bhala practiced international banking law at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York before entering academia and currently serves as senior adviser to Dentons in Kansas City.

To schedule an interview, contact Mike Krings at or @MikeKrings.

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