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Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala battles 5 others to become WTO DG

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Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala shares the stage with Joe Biden, others as 100 Most Influential People on Earth

Six candidates including Nigeria’s former finance Minister, Okonjo-Iweala are jostling for the next head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), according to report by the Agence France Presse (AFP)

Meanwhile, the window to enter the race slams shut on Wednesday, in a speed-up contest to replace the outgoing WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo, the Brazilian career diplomat who is stepping down one year early at the end of August.

President Muhammadu Buhari had nominated Okojo-Iweala had in May nominated Okonjo-Iwealafor the position of director-general of the WTO.

The six candidates in the running are from Egypt, Kenya, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria and South Korea.

The six candidates are South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee; Kenya’s former foreign minister Amina Mohamed; Mexico’s former WTO deputy director-general Jesus Seade Kuri; former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Egyptian former diplomat, Hamid Mamdouh; and former Moldovan foreign minister Tudor Ulianovschi.

The new chief of WTO, an institution faced with mammoth challenges even before the pandemic-driven global economic crisis struck,  must revive stalled trade talks, lay the ground for the 2021 ministerial conference — one of the WTO’s major events — and thaw relations with Washington.

The United States, which has threatened to leave the WTO, has blocked the organisation’s dispute settlement appeal system since December and wants China moved up from the developing economies category.

In a surprise move in mid-May, Azevedo, 62, announced that he would end his second four-year term early for personal reasons, forcing the Geneva-based WTO’s 164 member states to come up with a successor in just three months instead of the usual nine.

Rather than an election, the procedure for selecting the next WTO boss relies on finding consensus, with candidates gradually being eliminated in turn.

A vote is possible as a measure of last resort, but that scenario has never occurred.

In 1999, when countries could not decide between two runners, both candidates each served a three-year term.

The next incumbent faces a tough task, with the WTO caught in the middle of rising tensions between the United States and China.

“If the process of choosing the next director-general is heavily politicised, that could block things up,” a diplomatic source told AFP.

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