The race for the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has gotten to its peak as the final two candidates to jostle for the post have been selected by members of the WTO. Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea made it to the final round of the contest to champion the course of the organization in its most turbulent period which has seen the globe fight the coronavirus pandemic, a global recession, the battle for trade supremacy between the United States and China, and the forthcoming American election.
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With Ngozi and Yoo’s selection to the final round, the organization is set to have its first female Director-General in its 25 years of existence. While Ngozi has served as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance on two occasions and is notable for vast experience in working with international bodies such as the World Bank where she served as the managing director and as chairman of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, Yoo is presently the trade minister for South Korea. Yoo who has had a 25-year career in the South Korean government has helped the expansion of her country’s trade network through bilateral agreements with the United States, China, and the United Kingdom.
Yoo’s strong links with the U.S and as an insider in the WTO due to her role as trade minister might be a little edge for her bid to become the new director-general, but Ngozi is confident that her neutrality is a great advantage as she looks in her usual manner to put Nigeria and Africa once again in the global map. In her words:
‘It’s true I am not a WTO insider but that’s a good thing. We need someone who knows trade but brings a fresh pair of eyes. There are a lot of people with technical skills at the WTO. There is no shortage of trade skills but the problems are there and they are getting worse. Something else is needed, strong political skills, someone able to engage leaders in a substantive way.’
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Other candidates for the post such as Amina Chawahir Mohammed Jobril of Kenya, Liam Fox of the United Kingdom, and Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijiri of Saudi Arabia were unable to secure enough support during the second round of consultation. The consultation process will enter its third and final phase in the latter part of October 2020, and end on November 6, 2020, which will see the WTO announce a consensus winner of the contest which is expected to be tough.
However, the outlook of the selection is in some way clouded by the United States presidential election which will hold on November 3, 2020. Decisions at the WTO are reached on a consensus basis; this implies that a lack of support from America for any of the candidates might delay the selection process for the new director-general. In a case were members of the WTO are unable to select a winner for the post by consensus, a vote which requires a qualified majority might be the last resort, and this would be unprecedented for the organization.
The Guardian NG
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