Roberto Azevêdo, WTO Director-General, 2013 to 2020
Mr Roberto Azevêdo was Director-General of the WTO from 1 September 2013 to 31 August 2020.
Roberto Azevêdo was the sixth Director-General of the WTO. His appointment took effect on 1 September 2013 for a four-year term. In February 2017, WTO members reappointed him for a second term, which began on 1 September 2017. He stepped down as Director-General a year before the expiry of his mandate.
Achievements as Director-General
During his time as Director-General, Mr Roberto Azevêdo oversaw three WTO Ministerial Conferences — in Bali in 2013, Nairobi in 2015 and Buenos Aires in 2017 — which delivered a series of significant outcomes in support of growth and development.
The package of outcomes delivered in Bali contained a range of decisions on agriculture issues, support for least developed countries and the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which was the first multilateral agreement delivered by the WTO.
The Nairobi package contained decisions to support least-developed countries to integrate into the global economy, some specific measures on cotton, and a range of decisions on agriculture relating to a Special Safeguard Mechanism for Developing Country Members, Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes, and Export Competition. The latter, which included the elimination of agricultural export subsidies, is the most important reform of agriculture trade since the creation of the WTO in 1995. The Nairobi conference also saw the conclusion of negotiations to expand the Information Technology Agreement, eliminating tariffs on a range of products in this sector.
The Buenos Aires Conference ended with a number of ministerial decisions, including on fisheries subsidies and e-commerce duties, and a commitment to continue negotiations in all areas. On the final day of the conference, three proponent groups announced new initiatives to advance talks at the WTO on the issues of electronic commerce, investment facilitation and micro, small and medium size enterprises (MSMEs).
During his tenure Mr Azevêdo prioritised efforts to increase the trading capacity of developing and least-developed countries. Along with advances in negotiations, he hosted the Global Reviews of Aid for Trade in 2015, 2017 and 2019, supported the renewal of the Enhanced Integrated Framework into its second phase, which began in January 2016, and created the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility to ensure that developing and least-developed countries can access the support they need to implement the Agreement.
As Director-General, Mr Azevêdo also oversaw the expansion of the WTO membership, with the accessions of Yemen, Seychelles, Kazakhstan, Liberia and Afghanistan. In addition, he took steps to strengthen the WTO Secretariat, putting in place a range of reforms to improve the service provided for WTO members (while also meeting budgetary goals set by members), including by increasing resources in the dispute settlement system.
Mr Azevêdo holds a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Brasilia. He subsequently attended the ‘Instituto Rio Branco’, the graduate school of diplomacy run by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations. He joined the Brazilian Foreign Service in 1984.
His first diplomatic posting was to Washington in 1988. He subsequently served in the Brazilian embassy in Montevideo before being assigned to the Permanent Mission of Brazil in Geneva in 1997.
Roberto Azevêdo served on WTO dispute settlement panels and, in 2001, he was named head of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry’s Dispute Settlement Unit where he remained until 2005. During his tenure he acted as chief litigator in many disputes at the WTO.
From 2006 to 2008 he was Vice-Minister for Economic and Technological Affairs at the Foreign Ministry in Brasilia. In that capacity he was also Brazil's chief trade negotiator for the Doha Round and other WTO issues.
In 2008 he was appointed Permanent Representative of Brazil to the WTO and other International Economic Organisations in Geneva.
Mr Azevêdo has been a frequent lecturer on topics related to international trade and has published numerous articles on these issues.
He is married to Maria Azevêdo. They have two daughters and three granddaughters.