Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s two-time minister of finance, was on June 4 nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s candidate for the job of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), an election coming up next year.
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, who is among the eight candidates vying for the position, is currently the Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; a member of the Boards of Standard Chartered PLC and Twitter Inc, and was recently appointed as African Union (AU) Special Envoy to mobilise International Financial Support in the fight against COVID-19.
She is also the Special Envoy for the World Health Organisation’s Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.
She served as Nigeria’s foreign minister briefly in 2006.
Despite having a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, rising to the position of managing director (operations), and living in Washington suburbs, she just obtained American citizenship in 2019.
“It’s not uncommon for international civil servants who spend long stretches working abroad to take a second citizenship, especially when their families have been living overseas with them,” a spokeswoman for Mrs Okonjo-Iweala told Bloomberg.
While some of the candidates boast of holding dual citizenship in their biographies uploaded on the WTO website, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala is quiet about it.
She holds a Bachelor’s in economics from Harvard University and Ph.D. in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
She is renowned as the first female and African candidate to contest for the presidency of the world bank group in 2012.
Other candidates vying for the post are Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh (Egypt), Amina Mohamed (Kenya), Jesús Kuri (Mexico), Tudor Ulianovschi (Moldova), Yoo Myung-hee (Korea), Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri (Saudi Arabia), and Liam Fox (UK).
Jesús Seade Kuri
Nominated by the Mexican President, Andres Obrador, Jesús Seade was the first official candidate for the post.
He is currently the undersecretary for North America in Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) and chief negotiator for the US, Mexico and Canada Trade Agreement.
In his statement to the General Council, Mr. Seade said with his wealth of experience as well as his life as an academic in the UK and in France, in Mexico, in Hong Kong-China and in
the PRC, makes him the international man that he is: “fully multilingual, with a career spanning the four corners of the globe and a profound multilateral consciousness”.
“Having contributed fundamentally to the creation of our WTO, my professional and personal commitment with this House is deep,” he said.
Mr Mamdouh is a senior counsel at King & Spalding and former director of the trade in services and investment division of the WTO.
He is also currently a visiting Industry Professor, Queen Mary, University of London.
In his statement to the council, he said he aims to provide the kind of leadership that matches the gravity of the crisis.
“I will rely on my long and proven WTO management experience to make sure that the world class expertise that resides in the Secretariat is put at the disposal of Members to assist going forward.
“I will stand my ground on the gender balance amongst the DDGs and senior members of the secretariat.”
Nominated on July 16, by the Republic of Moldova, he served as minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Moldova and has had a distinguished career in diplomatic service for over 15 years.
In his statement to the General Council, he made a few promises if elected.
“I will use my political, ministerial, ambassadorial, managerial and negotiation experience at the strategic and tactical levels, to constantly pursuit to drive the WTO to a brighter future, with fairness, independence, transparency, inclusiveness, bearing in mind that this is a member-driven Organization, where all members, including the smallest, must be part of the driving force and that the DG is an honest broker, who both understands the issues and has the capacity to facilitate political dialogue and a DG that Gets Things Done!.”
Ms Myung-hee is currently the current Minister for Trade of South Korea and the first woman to hold that position.
She has a 25 -ear career in Trade.
In her statement to the General Council, she said if elected, she will will lead in a “supportive and positive manner to keep attracting talented and ambitious professionals from around the world”.
“I will actively support cross-cutting projects and transparency to support new initiatives, but at the same time to help breathe life into longstanding work programs. I will come to work every day enthused and energized and I will seek a secretariat that does so as well.
“Should I be chosen to become the next Director-General I will give the job everything I have, all my time, my energy, and my hopes to make the WTO more relevant, resilient, and responsive” she said.
Ms Mohamed is presently serving as the Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Heritage and Culture in Kenya.
She was previously Kenya’s foreign affairs and international trade minister.
In her presentation, she said the role of Director-General carries few powers, “but it can and should have a considerable positive influence in moving forward the work of the WTO”.
“If you choose me to be the next Director-General, I commit myself wholeheartedly to work collaboratively and inclusively – as I have always done – to make this organization work better for all its Members.”
Nominated by Saudi Arabia on Juky 8, Mr Al-Tuwaijri was the Kingdom’s economy and planning minister from November 2017 till March 2020
He is currently the minister advising the royal court on international and local economic strategic matters.
In his presentation, he said if elected he will help deliver the WTO to its goal, and to maintain its path.
“For my entire career in private sector and in government leadership positions, I have assessed problems, prepared strategies, and implemented plans to deliver on goals successfully. I know that the circumstances of the WTO would keep me quite busy, and I welcome the challenge.”
Mr Fox is a member of the UK Parliament and a privy counsellor.
He served as International Trade Secretary under prime minister Theresa May from 2016 to 2019.
He studied medicine at the University of Glasgow before practicing as a doctor in the NHS.
In his presentation, Mr Fox said he had the skills and experience to deliver the political momentum to take the organisation forward.
“We need the political momentum to take us forward. It is only with vision, and shared purpose, that we can find the compromises required to meet the challenges I’ve set out,reversing the rise in trade restrictive measures, recommitting ourselves to the founding principles to which we have all agreed while updating and strengthening this institution so it’s fit to tackle the challenges of the 21st Century.
“I believe I have the skills and experience to deliver that political momentum”.