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August 20, 2020, 07.17 PM

GENEVA, – Director-General of the WTO Roberto Azevedo is leaving his post a year early to join US soft drink and snacks giant, PepsiCo.

The head of the World Trade Organization will officially step down on August 31 after a seven-year tenure.

By joining PepsiCo, Roberto will serve as the company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer.

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He will start his new role a day after leaving the crisis-stricken institution.

The company said the role had been created for the Brazilian career diplomat who will work on "solidifying PepsiCo's external engagement efforts with national and international (authorities), regulators, international organizations and non-governmental stakeholders."

Azevedo, PepsiCo chief Ramon Laguarta said, would bring "valuable political skills and technical knowledge of the complex social, political, and regulatory environments" impacting the company.

The departing World Trade Organization chief, who was educated as an engineer, said in the statement that he was "delighted to join PepsiCo at a time when strengthening relationships between business, government and society has become essential to generating sustainable and inclusive long-term growth".

Read also: TPP Members Tackle Protectionism to Prevent Food and Medicine Shortages

Azevedo, who made the surprise announcement in May that he would end his second WTO term 12 months early, for "personal reasons", is leaving the organization engulfed in multiple crises.

One of eight candidates currently in the running to succeed him will be taking the reins in the midst of a devastating global economic downturn sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, trade negotiations appear hopelessly stalled and trade tensions between the US and China continue to soar.

Read also: US to Resume Talks of China Trade Deal amid Covid-19 Disruption

At the same time, the appellate branch of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body, sometimes called the supreme court of world trade, stopped functioning in December after years of relentless US opposition.

Washington accuses the court of major overreach and has blocked appointments of new judges, leaving it without the quorum needed to hear cases.

Last month WTO members failed to agree on what had been expected to be a straight-forward appointment of one of four current deputy directors as an acting chief during the months-long selection process for a permanent leader. 

(Writers & Editors: NL/APO/BMM, Agence France-Presse)


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