WTO announces Okonjo-Iweala, S. Korea’s Yoo as last two DG contenders

(COMBO) This combination of file pictures created on October 7, 2020, shows South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee (L) in Geneva on July 16, 2020; and Nigerian former Foreign and Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (R) in Geneva, July 15, 2020, as they give press conferences as part of their application process to head the WTO as Director-General. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

The World Trade Organization is set to have its first female leader after Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee made it through Thursday to the final run-off. Whoever wins the contest — with a decision due before November 7 — will take over an organisation mired in multiple crises and struggling to help member states navigate a severe global economic slump triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Roberto Azevedo stepped down as WTO director-general in August a year ahead of schedule. The initial pool of eight candidates to replace him was narrowed down to five in last month’s first round. Britain’s Liam Fox, Kenya’s Amina Mohamed and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad al-Tuwaijri were knocked out in the second round Thursday.

“Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria and Korean minister Yoo Myung-hee will advance to the third and final stage,” WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell told reporters at the global trade body’s headquarters in Geneva. The pair received a boost earlier this week when EU member states officially threw their weight behind them.

Rather than voting, the 164 WTO member states make decisions by consensus only, and have been narrowing down the field of candidates through lengthy consultations.


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