It has been confirmed that the EU Commissioner for Trade, Ireland's Phil Hogan, is "exploring the idea" of applying to be the director general of the World Trade Organization. 

Mr Hogan, who was previously Agriculture Commissioner, was appointed to the Trade brief last year. 

The existing WTO Director General, Brazilian Roberto Azevēdo, is due to step down in September. 

Mr Hogan's name, sources in Brussels say, is being mentioned as a possible replacement by some EU governments. 

The WTO, whose first director general was another Irishman Peter Sutherland, is responsible for establishing international trade rules. 

Mr Hogan, who was once a Fine Gael environment minister, was nominated to the Commission by then Taoiseach Enda Kenny in 2014. 

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Asked if the Taoiseach would be backing Mr Hogan's bid - should he decide to apply for the post of WTO director general - a spokesman said the matter had yet to be considered by government. 

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the European Commission said it was expected that the issue of an EU nominee for the position of WTO director general would first discussed at a meeting of EU trade ministers on the 9th of June. 

The spokesman added: "... the European Commission emphasises the importance of an expedited process and of EU unity in agreeing one candidate".

He added that the EU has been a "driving force" in the reforming of the WTO, a process which needs to continue "... to ensure it remains fit to respond to the challenges we face, especially as we try to respond collectively to the impact of the corononvirus pandemic".