Dubai consultant in running for WTO director general post

Ahmad Hindawi, a former Jordanian minister of trade and industry now based in Dubai, is set to join the running for the top post at the World Trade Organisation.

Jordanian Trade Minister Ahmad Hindawi speaks during a press conference in Amman 23 December 2004.  AFP PHOTO/KHALIL MAZRAWI
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A Dubai-based businessman is to join the running for the top post at the World Trade Organization, a race which if he wins would make him the first director general of the trade body from the Arab world.

Ahmad Hindawi, a former Jordanian government minister, is likely to be guaranteed the support of the UAE, said Juma Al Kait, the assistant undersecretary of foreign trade affairs at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Trade.

"We will look at all of the candidates but if there is a candidate from the Arab world we will definitely support them," he said.

"The economic integration of the Arab world is important, as is capacity building for developing countries and there has also been talk of trying to get the Arabic language recognised at the WTO along with English, French and Spanish."

Mr Hindawi will be up against the former Ghanaian trade minister Alan John Kwadwo Kyerematen, who on Monday became the first candidate to be nominated for the post after his country put his name forward.

Mr Hindawi, a former minister of industry and trade, is yet to be officially nominated but his name will be put forward by Jordan before the application process closes on December 31, an official in the industry ministry said yesterday. Candidates from several other parts of the world are likely to emerge before the deadline.

Whoever wins will face the sizeable challenge of pushing through stalled talks on global trade reform and handling a growing tide of disputes from countries ranging from Argentina to China.

"It will be a fierce competition," said Mr Hindawi, the chief executive and chairman of Hindawi, an economic consultancy group based in Dubai. "Jordan is a small country but has a good reputation in the world because of its balanced position on certain issues."

If elected, Mr Hindawi said he would seek to further liberalise global trade, while also working to encourage greater flows of goods and services in the Arab world. Arab countries currently trade far more with other parts of the world than with each other.

"Most of the Arab world have an educated workforce and have been taking steps to liberalise the economy but no consensus has been reached as of now on these issues," he said.

Since its creation in 1995, the WTO has been charged with opening trade routes, striking trade deals and resolving disputes between its membership, which has swelled to 157 countries.

The current director general, Pascal Lamy, from France, has overseen the accession of Russia to the body but his tenure has been overshadowed by the failure to reach a breakthrough on the so-called Doha round of talks to liberalise trade.

Disputes have also risen this year, with WTO members launching 26 disputes so far in 2012, the most since 2003.

Mr Lamy will step down in August and a successor is expected to be announced by May 31.