Okonjo-Iweala, five others jostle for WTO Top job

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Six candidates are vying to become the next head of the World Trade Organisation, an institution which faced mammoth challenges even before the pandemic-driven global economic crisis struck.

The six candidates are former Nigerian foreign and finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee; Kenya’s former foreign minister Amina Mohamed; Mexico’s former WTO deputy director-general Jesus Seade Kuri; Egyptian former diplomat Hamid Mamdouh; and former Moldovan foreign minister Tudor Ulianovschi.

The new chief must revive stalled trade talks, lay the ground for the 2021 ministerial conference – one of the WTO’s major events – and thaw relations with Washington.

The window to enter the race slams shut on Wednesday, in a speeded-up contest to replace the outgoing WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo – the Brazilian career diplomat who is stepping down one year early at the end of August.

In a surprise move in mid-May, Azevedo, 62, announced that he would end his second four-year term early for personal reasons, forcing the Geneva-based WTO’s 164 member states to come up with a successor in just three months instead of the usual nine.

Rather than an election, the procedure for selecting the next WTO boss relies on finding consensus, with candidates gradually being eliminated in turn.

A vote is possible as a measure of last resort, but that scenario has never occurred.

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