- WTO to get new Director General soon
- Last 2 candidates for the leadership post are women
- This would be the first time in its 25 year history that a female will lead WTO
The World Trade Organization members have selected two final candidates –Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria and Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea – to advance to the final round in the bid to lead the Geneva-based global trade body, as per the people familiar with the matter.
As two women advances to the final round of the selection process, the WTO could likely witness the first female Director General in its 25-year history.
Okonjo-Iweala has served two stints as Nigeria’s Finance Minister and one term as the Foreign Affairs Minister. She also has first hand experience working at the international governing bodies as a Former Managing Director of the World Bank and also as a Chairman at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.
On the other hand, Yoo is the Trade Minister of South Korea and during her 25 year career in government, she has helped South Korea’s tread network via bilateral accords with not just China and the UK but also the United States of America.
The General Council Chairman of the World Trade Organisation, David Walker, plans to formally announce the results to the institution’s delegates on the morning of Thursday in Geneva.
Williams Reinsch, a trade official in the Clinton administration and also the senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies had said, “They’re both very well qualified, it’s going to be a fight,”.
The top challenge will be “restoring the organization to full strength and viability and restoring its reputation. You need members to have confidence that the WTO is capable of solving problems. I think right now that confidence is eroded.”
Last month, Yoo told Bloomberg TV that she wanted the WTO to offer a meaningful platform for the U.S. as well as to China to discuss their trade disputes. She vowed to play the role of mediator if chosen to lead the organization and also work as a force for multilateralism.
She said having a woman at the helm of the WTO leadership would better foster an “inclusive, diverse, and resilient work place culture.”
The U.K.’s Liam Fox, Kenya’s Amina Chawahir Mohamed Jibril and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri could not secure enough support in the second round of the consultations, going by the people familiar with the matter.
The third and final phase of the consultation process will begin later this month and run until the 6th of November after which the WTO will endeavour to name a consensus winner for the race of WTO Director General position.
“Clouding the outlook for the selection process is the U.S. presidential election Nov. 3. The WTO makes decisions on a consensus basis, and a lack of American support for any of the finalists could mean delays in picking the new director-general,” a leading news agency wrote.
Reinsch said, “I don’t see how you could conclude that either candidate would be unacceptable, from a U.S. point of view,” citing standards mentioned by the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
“Lighthizer was asked for criteria for the selection and I think he mentioned three: committed to reform, no whiff of anti-Americanism, and taking on countries that flout the rules. I think they certainly meet his criteria.”
If the members of the World Trade Organisation fails to select a leader by consensus, a vote requiring a qualified majority could be held which would be the last resort, this would be an unprecedented development for the organization.
The campaign of being able to lead the WTO during the most turbulent period of its 25-year existence is panning out against the backdrop of the global pandemic, a worldwide recession, the U.S.-China battle for trade supremacy and also the American Presidential election.
President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, has blasted the WTO as the worst trade deal in U.S. history and pledges to overhaul it to better suit the country’s interests.
The vacancy for the top WTO job arose when Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo decided to step down at the end of August, one year before his term was due to end.
The members of the WTO saw the race as an opportunity to reshape the organization, whose mission of economic integration is under threat from protectionist policies around the globe.
Without reform, it risks being sidelined during the biggest economic crisis in a century. Bark Tae-ho, a former South Korean trade minister, said, “South Korea rose from a poor country to a developed one through trade and exports, and as such, I think a Korean being WTO leader would give hope to other developing nations,”. Bark also sought WTO leadership in 2013.