"At a virtual meeting of all WTO members on May 14, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo announced that he would step down on August 31, cutting his second term short by exactly one year," WTO said in a statement.
The 62-year-old Brazilian career diplomat's second four-year term was not scheduled to end until September 2021.
Azevedo said that bringing forward his departure would allow members to select his successor in the coming months, without diverting political energy and attention from preparations for the Twelfth Ministerial Conference, which is set to be held in 2021.
"We must give my successor sufficient time to plan, together with you, the path not only for MC12 but for how that Conference fits into your plans for the future of the Organization," he told members.
"The earlier the new DG takes office the better," he added.
Azevedo further said that he will be working to improve and strengthen this Organization until his last day in office - and beyond.
"The WTO may not be perfect, but it is indispensable all the same. It is what keeps us from a world where the law of the jungle prevails, at least as far as trade is concerned," he added.
Moreover, he said that WTO should start the year 2021 with a focus on the real challenges: ensuring that the multilateral trading system responds to new economic realities, above all the post-Covid recovery.
In his statement, Azevedo said that "it is a personal decision - a family decision - and I am convinced that this decision serves the best interests of this Organization.