Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has emerged one of the two final candidates vying to become the Director-General of the World Trade Organization ( WTO).
She is standing against South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee to advance to the final round in the race to lead the Geneva-based trade body.
By selecting two women as final candidates, the WTO is to have its first female DG in its 25-year history.
The two emerged from an initial list of 8 candidates in a highly political and widely publicized selection process that began in May.
A two-time minister in Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala’s experience includes working at international governance bodies as a former managing director of the World Bank and as a chairman at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.
Yoo is South Korea’s trade minister. During her 25-year career in government, she has helped expand her country’s trade network through bilateral accords with the U.S., China and the U.K.
The eventual winner will replace Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down at the end of August, a year before his term was due.
The third and last leg of the consultation process will begin later this month and run until November 6, after which the WTO will endeavour to name a consensus winner.
Interestingly, the US Presidential Election will be three days before that date: The WTO makes decisions on a consensus basis, thus a lack of American support for any of the finalists could delay the announcement.
President 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.
U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer said top on America’s agenda is a candidate committed to reform, with no whiff of anti-Americanism, and with the political will to take on countries that flout the rules.
Okonjo-Iweala, who recently obtained American citizenship, meets the criteria, as does Yoo.
If WTO members are unable to select a leader by consensus, a vote requiring a qualified majority could be held as a last resort, which would be an unprecedented development for the organization.
With its mission of economic integration under threat given protectionist policies especially by the US and China, the next WTO boss is expected to restore global economic cooperation.