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PepsiCo hires WTO chief Azevedo as trade body's leadership void drags on

FILE PHOTO: Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), attends a news conference after a General Council meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Departing World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevedo will join PepsiCo Inc PEP.O as chief corporate affairs officer, the soft drink and snack foods giant said on Wednesday as the WTO remains far from deciding on a successor.

PepsiCo said in a statement that Azevedo will oversee its public policy, government affairs and communications efforts in a newly created role that works with governments, international organizations and other stakeholders. He will also join PepsiCo’s executive committee.

“We are thrilled to welcome Roberto, who brings valuable political skills and technical knowledge of the complex social, political, and regulatory environments impacting multinational corporations like PepsiCo,” PepsiCo Chairman Ramon Laguarta said in a statement, adding that Azevedo’s “geopolitical insights will be invaluable to our discussions and decision-making in an ever-changing world.”

Azevedo, a Brazilian former trade negotiator and diplomat, has headed the WTO since 2013. He is due to leave the organization at the end of August, but the eight candidates vying to succeed him have been given until Sept. 7 to campaign for the job and the selection process is expected to drag into November.

The deeply divided organization failed at the end of July to appoint an interim chief among four deputies.

The next WTO chief would broker international trade talks amid worsening economic tensions between the United States and China, increased protectionism sparked by the coronavirus pandemic and pressure to reform global trading rules..

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has effectively shut down the WTO’s Appellate Body, which issues final settlements for trade disputes, by blocking judicial appointments.

Azevedo said in a statement he was “delighted” to join PepsiCo, calling the maker of Pepsi and Doritos “a global leader in driving meaningful collaborations and investments focused on the betterment of our society and planet.”

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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