Okonjo-Iweala, other WTO DG contenders start pitches today

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The eight candidates battling to become the next head of the beleaguered World Trade Organization make their pitches this week, with three days of auditions starting Wednesday. The contenders will make 15-minute presentations to the 164 member states’ representatives at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, before facing a 75-minute grilling over their plans for the global trade body.

After a series of eliminations based on consensus, starting in September, the winner will take the WTO wheel in the midst of a global economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. The new leader will also have to sort out simmering trade tensions between the United States and China and revive stalled trade talks. There are three African candidates, two from Europe, two from Asia and one from the Americas.

Africa’s trio are former Nigerian foreign and finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Egyptian former diplomat Hamid Mamdouh; and Kenya’s former WTO General Council chair Amina Mohamed. Britain’s first post-Brexit international trade secretary Liam Fox and former Moldovan foreign minister Tudor Ulianovschi are the two from Europe.

South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee and former Saudi economy minister Mohammed al-Tuwaijri are running from Asia, while Mexico’s former WTO deputy director-general Jesus Seade Kuri was the first to declare his candidacy.

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