A New Era For The WTO?

Over half a dozen candidates are vying to succeedRoberto Azevêdo as head of the World Trade Organization.

Left to Right: Abdel Hamid Mamdouh, of Egypt, Amina Mohamed, of Kenya, Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri, of Saudi Arabia, Yoo Myung-hee, of Korea, Liam Fox, of United Kingdom, Tudor Uli

When World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevêdo announced his early resignation on May 14, the WTO established a new expedited nomination process, which closed on July 8 with eight candidates vying for the top seat. Whoever clinches the job is likely to represent a departure from tradition for the 125-year-old international trade regulator.

Three African candidates are nominated, including two women, and a total of three women are in the running, including South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, 53, who has led the South Korean negotiation team on trade deals with the U.S., Singapore and ASEAN. That signals a strong desire for the next WTO head to be either African or a woman or both.

Amina Mohamed, 58 years old and Kenya’s cabinet secretary of sports, heritage and culture, is on her second candidacy. She was previously the first female chair of the WTO General Council and chair of the African Group on WTO’s Human Rights Commission. Her long experience with the WTO and reports that she has the support of China and UK, make her a leading contender.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, 66, is a development economist with 25 years of experience at the World Bank (including a post as Managing Director from 2007-2011). She was the first female Nigerian Foreign Minister and was twice Finance Minister. Forbes ranked her among the world’s top 50 “Power Women” in 2015.

Hamid Mamdouh, a 67-year-old Swiss-Egyptian, has been a senior WTO official since 1990 and has a long career in trade negotiation.

Other candidates include Jesus Seade, 73, a Mexican negotiator and currently the WTO’s deputy secretary for North America; Tudor Ulianovschi, 37, the former Moldovan Foreign Minister; Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri, 60, former Saudi Arabian Minister of Economy and Planning with long career in the banking industry; and Liam Fox, 59, former international trade secretary and staunch Brexiteer.

The “make themselves known to members” campaigning phase expires on September 7.