The close of the nomination period for the top position at World Trade Organization (WTO), yesterday, showed that eight candidates, including Nigeria’s Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, will be vying , according to Reuters. The news agency reported that a final 24-hour flurry added three names to the field to replace Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, who will quit at the end of August, a year earlier than expected. With three of the six previous Director-Generals coming from Europe and the others from Thailand, Brazil and New Zealand, pressure has been building to choose a leader from Africa. However, the continent has not united on a single figure, instead producing three candidates, from Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria. The others are from Britain, Mexico, Moldova, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. The WTO has also never had a female chief. Three in the field are women.
All eight are expected to present themselves to the general council of ambassadors next week before an unspecified period of campaigning. A “troika” of ambassadors will canvas opinion in the hope the members can unite around one name. “It’s like electing a pope. It’s a consensus process,” said Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, director of trade think tank ECIPE.
The process normally takes nine months, but the WTO now wants to do it in three. The job is a tough one. The WTO is set to go into overdrive on a series of disputes, including fishing subsidies, ahead of a biennial conference in 2021. It is also facing pressure to update global trading rules set 25 years ago. This means finding a consensus on new rules as U.S.-China tensions rise and other countries smart from more than 100 trade barriers erected since the coronavirus outbreak early this year.