Phil Hogan, Ireland's European Union commissioner, has pulled out of the race to become the next director-general of the World Trade Organization.

In a statement, Mr Hogan cited the busy EU trade agenda, including the Brexit negotiations and the risk of the election drifting well into the autumn, as reasons for his decision not to put his name forward.

Although he had never formally declared as a candidate, Mr Hogan said on June 8 that he was "exploring" his candidacy for the WTO position.

That prompted significant speculation about his chances.

The European Commission also required Mr Hogan to step back from any sensitive global trade issues that pertained to the WTO, in order to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

"I have decided that I will not be putting my name forward for the position of Director-General of the World Trade Organisation," Mr Hogan said in a statement this morning.

"I have informed the President of the [European] Commission today. In consultation [with] and approval of President [Ursula] Von Der Leyen, I will return to my duties of Trade Commissioner with immediate effect," he said.

"We will work together to implement our important work programme on behalf of our EU Citizens as well as implementing our Trade Agenda with renewed vigour," he added.

Mr Hogan said the need for a referee in the sphere of world trade was now greater than at any time since the foundation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1947.

"The European Union, as one of the largest trading blocs in the world, will continue to work constructively with like-minded countries to achieve the objectives of a more effective and efficient WTO," he said.

"All members that want free, fair and sustainable trade should do likewise."

Mr Hogan said a new Director-General of the WTO should be appointed without delay.

"However, in recent days, it has become evident that the original timeline for this appointment in early September 2020 will be delayed and therefore create uncertainty in the leadership of the organisation at this critical time," he said.

Ireland's EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has said several member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) had suggested he run for the post of director-general and that out of courtesy he had considered putting forward his nomination.

However, he said the original election deadline of September 8 was now unlikely to be met and that a delayed timeline would distract from his work as EU Trade Commissioner. 

"I was anxious to help in terms of focussing on the WTO agenda," he told RTE News.  

"I was asked to put my name forward by several countries of the WTO because we need a strong political leadership in the WTO. So I'm very grateful and indeed gratified to all the people who thought I might be capable of doing the job," he said,

"At the end of the day, if the process is going to continue with no end in sight in terms of the timeline, which was much different to the original intention of having a speedy, accelerated process, then it would be certainly irresponsible of me to continue with this distraction at a time when we have very big EU trade matters to resolve, and it would be very unfair to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen," he added.

"We have a very busy EU trade agenda, we have a very ambitious timeline on Brexit, we have trade irritants with the US, we have investment negotiations with China, so taking all in the round I think it was wise to provide clarity as soon as possible and this is what I'm doing today," he stated.

Mr Hogan said he informed Ms von der Leyen yesterday of his decision not to put forward his nomination. 

He said the Brexit negotiations and escalating trade tensions with the US, including the threat of further tariffs on EU goods, including agricultural products, were "critical" in informing his decision.