World News

Two African women in final five WTO leadership race

Three women, two of them from Africa, have advanced to the second round of selection to become the next director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The WTO is looking to appoint a director-general to replace Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down a year earlier than expected at the end of August.

The 25-year-old Geneva-based trade body has never had a leader who is female or from Africa.

The five to go through to the next round are Kenyan Minister Amina Mohamed, former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad al-Tuwaijri and former British Minister Liam Fox.

Mexico’s Jesus Seade, Egypt’s Hamid Mamdouh and Moldovan Tudor Ulianovschi were eliminated Thursday.

Azevedo’s successor will face a considerable challenge with rising global trade tensions – most obviously between Beijing and Washington – protectionism during the COVID-induced slowdown, and pressure to drive reform.

Round two, in which the WTO’s 164 members will give their preferences from September 24 to October 6, will whittle the candidates down to two.

The two candidates from Africa reportedly have support from Europe and there is a sense that it is time an African candidate took the reins at the WTO.

The WTO said it wants to select its candidate by early November.

Trade experts and former WTO officials say the US presidential election on November 3 could extend the process, even if that goes against the WTO’s prescribed deadline.

However, the WTO said the process had gone well so far and all members had taken part.

“The objective is to have this process completed within 2 months – it began on 7 September so on or about 7 November, so we are on track for this. The process has gone smoothly,” WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell told reporters.

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