WITA Webinar: Conversation with WTO Director General Candidate The Rt Hon Dr. Liam Fox MP
Wendy Cutler with the Washington International Trade Association (WITA)
On July 30th, Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) Vice President Wendy Cutler cohosted a special webinar with the Washington International Trade Association (WITA). Cutler, along with WITA Executive Director Ken Levinson and President of the National Foreign Trade Council Amb. Rufus Yerxa, interviewed Dr. Liam Fox, the UK candidate to be the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Fox, a medical doctor and Member of the British Parliament, representing a constituency in southwest England, has previously served as the UK’s trade minister, and before that as the defense minister. He spoke to WITA from Warsaw, and touched on several topics in a wide-ranging conversation.
Cutler began by outlining the selection process for a new WTO Director-General, with a specific focus on the narrowing process, as well as on the activity currently underway in Geneva to pick an interim Director-General in light of Roberto Azevêdo's departure at the end of August.
Fox emphasized the esteem in which he holds the WTO, calling it an "excellent organization" albeit one that is "lacking political weight." "The problems we have at the WTO are not technical in nature," he argued, but rather "the basic problems are political." Fox pitched himself as a good option because of his current status as an elected politician.
After that, the four discussed several WTO-related issues, including the time it takes for the WTO to reach a decision in some dispute settlement cases, the prospects for updating the rules on industrial subsidies, the special and differential treatment accorded to developing countries — and the self-designation practice that the WTO adheres to for such countries — and Fox's vision for how to build a diverse and inclusive WTO.
Fox also discussed the ways that the pandemic had led to calls for countries to focus on redundancy in their supply chains and their sourcing of various goods. He pushed back against calls for protectionism as a response, saying, "Onshoring and the concept of economic nationalism will not be the answer in terms of resiliency."