Race for WTO DG narrowed to Okonjo-Iweala, Myung-hee

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THE race for the director-general of the World Trade Organization, WTO, has been narrowed down to a two-horse race between Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former minister of finance in Nigeria, and Yoo Myung-hee, trade minister in South Korea.

The two candidates advanced to the final round in the race to lead the Geneva-based trade body on Wednesday, October 6. By advancing two women to the final round of the selection process, the WTO will have the first female director-general in its 25-year history.

Okonjo-Iweala and Myung-hee are part of the five contenders in the final round for the job position. Others are Amina Mohamed of Kenya, Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Liam Fox of the United Kingdom. The five candidates were chosen in September from eight others after due consultations by the WTO.

President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier nominated Okonjo-Iweala for the WTO DG role with the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, later backing her nomination.

Okonjo-Iweala, 66, is an economist and development specialist now serving as board chair of global vaccine alliance Gavi.

She has said the WTO should play a role in helping poorer countries access COVID-19 drugs and vaccines while Yoo, 53, is pitching herself as an experienced operator on trade-in challenging times after clinching deals with the United States, China, and others while supporting global rules.

Both received backing from the 27 countries of the European Union this week. The other countries of the 164-member WTO have generally not revealed which names they put forward in the second round that ran from September 24 to October 6.

The WTO is looking for a new director-general to replace Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down a year earlier than expected in August. It aims to find a successor by early November.

The winning candidate will face formidable challenges with rising global tensions as a result of COVID-induced slowdown.

– Oct. 7, 2020 @ 19:15 GMT |

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