FORMER finance minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will have another formidable opponent to face in her quest to become the next director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) after the UK nominated its former international trade secretary Liam Fox for the post.
Last month, President Muhammadu Buhari, nominated Dr Okonjo-Iweala, 65, as his candidate for the position, after withdrawing the candidacy of Yonov Agah, Nigeria’s permanent representative to WTO. In a big boost for her candidacy, the governments of the 15 nations that make up the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) have unanimously backed Dr Okonjo-Iweala.
Facing Dr Okonjo-Iweala is South Korea’s trade minister Yoo Myung-Hee, 53, a negotiator, strategist and international trade expert. Also in the race are Mexican economist Jesús Seade Kuri, Kenya’s Amina Mohamed, Egyptian diplomat Hamid Mamdouh and former Moldovan foreign minister Tudor Ulianovschi.
Yesterday, nominations closed with their now being seven candidates running for the job, made up of three Africans, two Europeans, one South American and one Asian. QA medical doctor by training, Dr Fox has served as the UK’s defence secretary and international trade secretary but his career has been marred by scandal, including the 2009 expenses crisis when he was found to have the largest over-claim on expenses of all members of Parliament and was forced to repay the most money.
Rather than an election, the WTO selection procedure relies on finding consensus, with candidates gradually being eliminated in turn. If a consensus cannot be reached in time, one of the four deputy directors-general will take the reins in September on a caretaker basis.
David Walker, the Chair of the WTO General Council, said: “Candidates will be invited to meet with members at a special General Council meeting from 15 to 17 July. At this meeting, they will have the opportunity to present their views and take questions from the membership.”
Since the WTO was created in 1995, three of its directors-general were from Europe, while one each came from Oceania, Asia and South America. Africa fancies its chances this time, even though there is no regional rotation principle in place and in addition, the continent faces the additional problem of being unable to convene around a single candidate.