'The easiest trade deal in history': UK nominates Liam Fox to run World Trade Organisation

Dr Fox famously claimed a Brexit trade deal would be the 'easiest in history'

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Wednesday 08 July 2020 16:26 BST
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Britain is nominating former minister Liam Fox to be the next director-general of the World Trade Organisation, the government has announced.

Dr Fox, who famously said the still elusive Brexit trade deal with the EU would be the "easiest in history", would replace Roberto Azevêdo for an initial term of four years if elected.

“As the world seeks to recover from the shared challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic, the role of free and fair trade has never been more crucial," Boris Johnson said in a letter to the WTO.

“Dr Fox is a passionate advocate of multilateralism, who brings detailed knowledge of the global trading system from his years as a UK Cabinet Minister and Secretary of State for International Trade.

"He has first-hand experience of the political and technical challenges of negotiating trade agreements, and the reforms that are needed to ensure the global trading system truly delivers for all WTO members.”

Dr Fox hails from the right wing of the Conservative party and was previously Secretary of State for International Trade before he was replaced by Liz Truss. He is also a former Defence Secretary and chairman of the Conservative party.

The director-general of the WTO has little actual power over policy matters, but the job oversees a large secretariat of staff.

Liz Truss, the UK;s current International Trade Secretary, said: “The new WTO Director General needs to be a fierce champion of free and fair trade, an advocate of multilateralism, and be able to get things done and increase the pace of reform. Dr Liam Fox brings all those things to the table.

“He has experience making tough political decisions as a former UK Trade Secretary, is committed to the fundamental principle of free and fair trade and has excellent relationships with WTO members around the world. He is the ideal candidate to lead the WTO into a new era and help push forward much-needed modernisation of the organisation.”

Dr Fox himself said he was "honoured to have been nominated by the prime minister" and said his priorities would be "Update. Strengthen and Reform."

"We must ensure that global trade works for everyone," he added, stating that “Trade is a way in which we spread prosperity more widely. That prosperity underpins social cohesion, that social cohesion in turns underpins political stability and that political stability is the building block of our collective security.”

Asked about the proposal, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The PM will be writing to the WTO today and he will say that Dr Fox is a passionate advocate of multilateralism who brings detailed knowledge of the global trading system from his years as a UK Cabinet minister and secretary of state for international trade.

"He has first-hand experience of the political and technical challenges of negotiating trade agreements and the reforms that are needed to ensure the global trading system truly delivers for all WTO members.

"Dr Fox will be supported by a cross-Government team."

Pressed on whether being a Brexiteer is now a necessary qualification for senior appointments, the spokesman said: "No."

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