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Mr Hogan, 59, is widely reported to be considering throwing his hat into the ring for the top job at the WTO to replace Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, 62, who surprisingly announced he was stepping down as director-general on August 31, a year earlier than planned in what he insisted was a “personal decision”. Ray Bassett, who has served as Ireland’s ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, said he had been “surprised” at the reports, which originally surfaced in various Irish media outlets including broadcaster RTE and the Irish Times.
Ray Bassett, who has served as Ireland’s ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, said he had been “surprised” at the reports, which originally surfaced in various Irish media outlets including broadcaster RTE and the Irish Times.
He told Express.co.uk: “He has been with the EU Commission since November 2014 in high profile positions.
“The WTO is going through a very difficult time and it would seem a bit strange to jump from a very substantial job with the EU Commission into an organisation in deep trouble.”
It may also indicate that Hogan believes that the trade talks with the UK are going nowhere and does not want to be damaged by a failure, something which would greatly hurt Ireland
Mr Bassett suggested a perceived lack of progress in the negotiations between the UK, led by David Frost, and the EU, led by Michel Barnier, aimed at thrashing out a free trade agreement, which resumed today, might also be a factor.
He added: “It may also indicate that Hogan believes that the trade talks with the UK are going nowhere and does not want to be damaged by a failure, something which would greatly hurt Ireland.”
Additionally, the reports were scarcely a ringing endorsement of Mrs von der Leyen, who appointed Mr Hogan when she came into the job on December 1.
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Mr Bassett said: “The new EU Commission has had a very poor start under Ursula von der Leyen.
“Possibly Hogan is unhappy with how it is operating.”
The speculation about his EU future was “not exactly a vote of confidence in his boss and her team”, Mr Bassett said.
Additionally, he suggested there may be domestic considerations at work – specifically, an acknowledgement current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was likely to remain in post, in the short term at least.
Mr Bassett explained: “While based in Brussels, Hogan has stayed very close to his home base in Ireland.
“Given his frequent trips back home and his media activities, there was speculation that he might want to return to Ireland, possibly as a successor to Leo Varadkar as leader of the Fine Gael Party.
“This may indicate that he has judged that Varadkar is going nowhere for the present.
“Hogan was always a very shrewd political operator.
“I imagine he has sounded out the support he would be likely to receive and decided that he would not have the numbers necessary to mount a leadership challenge, should Leo decide to resign.”
Mr Hogan himself paid tribute to Mr Azevedo after news of his decision to step down broke last month.
In a statement issued via the European Commission on May 14, he said: “Of course, the WTO is now encountering major challenges and we hear louder voices demanding reform and greater effectiveness.
“Today’s announcement by Roberto, and I agree with him, offers a good moment for us to select a new Director-General to embrace and respond to the many challenges for the organisation.
“It is essential that we quickly chart a new path ahead at this critical and uncertain time for trade.”
He added: “The trade challenges arising from the impact of COVID-19 require immediate planning for the future.
“The WTO’s role is to respond collectively to this pandemic so that we can achieve better coordination and eliminate unnecessary and associated trade barriers. Many important policy areas require immediate attention.
“A new Director-General will help the membership to play an integral part in shaping the future. We cannot waste a moment.”
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