Race for top WTO job narrows as three candidates depart

The second phase of consultations will begin on September 24 and run until October 6 after which the WTO will announce two final candidates

FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured in front of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland, July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
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World Trade Organisation members eliminated three candidates from the race to be the next director general of the trade body and plan to narrow the field further to two final candidates in the coming weeks.

The Geneva-based WTO said Mexico’s Jesus Seade, Egypt’s Hamid Mamdouh and Moldova’s Tudor Ulianovschi did not secure enough support in a first of three rounds of voting.

“Their expertise and high professional and personal qualities are highly valued and respected by all members,” WTO general council chairman David Walker said in a statement on Friday.

The second phase of consultations will begin on September 24 and run until October 6, after which the WTO will announce two final candidates. The goal is to name a new leader by November 7.

The vacancy arose when Brazilian director general Roberto Azevedo decided to step down at the end of August, a year before his term was due to end.

The remaining contenders are all current or former ministers, something that trade officials had previously said was an important characteristic for a future director general.

Mohammad Al Tuwaijri, Saudi Arabia’s former minister of economy and planning; Liam Fox, the UK’s former secretary of state for international trade; Yoo Myung-hee, South Korea’s trade minister; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former finance minister and former managing director of the World Bank, and Amina Chawahir Jibril, Kenya’s former international trade minister, are still in the race.

The campaign to lead the WTO during the most turbulent period of its 25-year existence is playing out against the backdrop of the pandemic, a worldwide recession, the US-China battle for trade supremacy and the American presidential election.

The vacancy offers an opportunity for the US, the European Union and other nations to reshape the organisation, whose mission of economic integration is under threat from protectionist policies around the globe. Without reforms, it risks being sidelined during the biggest economic crisis in a century.