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Meet seven nominees battling Okonjo Iweala for WTO top job

The contest for the office of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is on as eight nominees set to battle for the world…

The contest for the office of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is on as eight nominees set to battle for the world trade top job.

The eight candidates who have registered their interest to run the race include three from Africa, two from Europe, and one each from Middle-East, Asia and North America.

However, there are three women and five men.

It is also important to note that out of the six previous director-generals; three were from Europe while Thailand, New Zealand and Brazil contributed one each.

As a result, pressure has been on the 164 members to choose the next occupant of the noble office from Africa but instead of fielding one candidate to concentrate on, Africa has produced more nominees (3) than any other continent — which stands as a great disadvantage to its chances in the race.

As the nomination process ends, Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is set to battle the other seven candidates for the noble office.

The Nigerian-born economist and international development expert sits on the Boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity (ARC).

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Previously, Okonjo-Iweala spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, scaling the ranks to the Number 2 position of Managing Director, Operations (2007-2011).

She also served two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria (2003-2006, 2011-2015) under the leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan respectively.

The following are the profiles of the other candidates in the race;



Amina Mohamed Jibril

Jibril is a Kenyan diplomat, lawyer and politician.

The 58-year-old has rich experience in the activities of the WTO and has run for the position in 2013 and lost to the current Director-General, Roberto Azevedo.

She controversially run against the candidate of the African Union (AU) in the 2013 race.

Jibril previously held the position of the deputy executive director at UNEP, Chair of the International Organization for Migration, chair of the World Trade Organization’s General Council, and assistant secretary-General of the UN.

She is currently the Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Heritage, and Culture in Kenya.



Liam Fox

Fox is a British politician, medical doctor, and diplomat.

He is a 58-year-old parliamentarian who has been in the British Parliament since 1992.

Fox does not have international job experience even though he is richly engulfed with experience in international trade.

He will be faced with a challenge from the European Union because of his previous support for Brexit.

Fox previously held Secretary of state for defence; Secretary of state for international trade; chair of the Conservative Party; parliamentary under-secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs; lord commissioner for the treasury in the UK.

He is currently a member of the British Parliament.



Yoo Myung-Hee

Myung-Hee is a 53-year-old lawyer and politician.

The Korean Minister of Trade is only woman contesting for the position from Asia.

Even though she does not have international experience, her unique selling point is that she has experience negotiating trade at the highest level of governance in and out of the WTO.

She had previously held the post of the Korean Embassy in China; Director-General for Bureau of Trade Policy; Presidential spokesperson; deputy minister for FTA negotiation; First Secretary (2007-2008) and then Counsellor (2009-2010).

Due to her involvement in aggressive trade negotiations, Myung-Hee is regarded as the “devil’s advocate” in Korea.

After 70 years of men domination in the Korean Ministry of Trade, she became the first woman to become minister of trade in Korea.



Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri

Al-Tuwaijri is a Saudi Arabian politician, pilot and banker.

The 60-year-old is currently the Royal Court advisor in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Even though he does not have experience in the WTO, he previously held the position of the minister of economy and planning; managing director and CEO of JP Morgan, Saudi Arabia; head of risk management, Saudi British Bank.

On the international platform, Al-Tuwaijri was a former Group managing director, deputy chairman and CEO at HSBC, United Arab Emirate.

His unique selling point is that he is tipped to enjoy high votes from Arab nations in Middle and northern Africa and if he wins the race, he will be the first WTO DG from the Arab nations.



Jesus Seade Kuri

Kuri is a Mexican economist, chemical engineer, diplomat and politician.

The 73-year-old is currently the Undersecretary for North America in Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He is the oldest candidate in the race.

The septuagenarian economist previously held the position of World Bank chief economist; founding deputy director-general of the World Trade Organization; senior advisor at the IMF and vice-president of Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Kuri who is currently a Professor of Economics at Lingnan University in Hong Kong has experience in the creation of WTO and has been at the peak level of its governance.

The multi-lingual diplomat can speak all the official languages of the WTO which include English, French and Spanish.



Tudor Ulianovschi

Ulianovschi is a Maldovan diplomat and politician.

The 37-year-old who is currently a Senior Vice President at Grasshopper Energy is the youngest among the contestants.

In his experience at the international level, he held the position of President of the Trade and Development Board at UNCTAD; Vice President of the General Assembly at WIPO; President of the Steering Committee on Trade at UNECE; Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva.

His unique selling point is that he has a rich experience in the WTO because he was the Chair of the Balance of Payments Committee of the WTO; Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization.



Abdulhameed Mamdouh

Mahmouh is an Egyptian lawyer and diplomat.

He is the second oldest among all contestants and only male contestant from Africa.

He has rich experience in the activities of the WTO as he served as the Director of the Trade in Services and Investment Division of the WTO; secretary of the WTO Council for Trade in Services since the establishment of the WTO in 1995.

He is currently the Senior Counsel at King & Spalding LLP and visiting Professor at Queen Mary London University.


The Campaign and the voting process

All the eight are expected to present themselves to the general council of ambassadors next week before an unspecified period of campaigning.

Director of the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE), Hosuk Lee Makiyama described the selection process as “It’s like electing a pope. It’s a consensus process,” where a group of ambassadors will canvas opinion in the hope the members can unite around one name.

The 9-months-long process is now being considered to be completed in three months.

What is the WTO?
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations.

At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments.

The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business.

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