The World Trade Organisation would soon be run by a woman for the first time in its 25-year history after it announced Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee as the top two candidates for the position of its Director-General.
PREMIUM TIMES reported Wednesday that the organisation selected two final candidates to advance to the final round in the race to lead the Geneva-based trade body.
On Thursday, the organisation announced that Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and Ms. Myung-hee are the final contenders.
“From 24 September to 6 October, WTO members expressed preferences on five remaining candidates during consultations with Amb. Walker, Amb. Dacio Castillo of Honduras and Amb. Harald Aspelund of Iceland,” the trade body said in a statement Thursday.
“Based on the depth and breadth of preferences articulated to the facilitators, Amb. Walker told a Heads of Delegation meeting on 8 October that the two candidates who secured the broadest and deepest support from the membership and who should subsequently advance to the final round are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria and Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea.
“The result creates an historic precedent for the WTO in that it assures that the 7th Director-General will become the first woman to lead the organization. These two candidates were chosen from a field of five(*) that had advanced to the second round of consultations.”
The organization noted that as the members move to the final round of consultations, the ultimate objective of its “measured and clearly defined” selection process is to secure a consensus decision by members on the next Director-General.
“Our aim continues to be to encourage and facilitate the building of consensus among members, and to assist in moving from this final slate of two candidates to a decision on appointment. As this is the final round of the consultation process, it should bring us to the point where we can make a recommendation to the General Council concerning that decision,” Mr. Walker, chair of the selection committee, said.
The General Council is the highest decision-making body of the WTO apart from the Ministerial Conference which meets every two years.
“As was the case for the first round, the entire membership remained fully engaged in and committed to this process. The facilitators and I are grateful for this very positive response. It is clear that all members attach great importance to this process,” Mr Walker added.
“On behalf of the entire membership, I would like to express deep gratitude for their participation in this selection process. It was clear that members consider them individuals of outstanding qualifications. I am sure you will all agree with us that in participating in the selection process, the candidates have all made a significant contribution to the standing and image of the WTO,” Mr Walker said.
During the confidential consultations, the WTO said the screening committees posed to each delegation a single question: “What are your preferences?”
Members then submitted two preferences to the “troika” of ambassadors.
Mr Walker said the third phase of consultations will commence on October 19 and run until October 27 to afford members sufficient time to prepare their positions.
Another factor in waiting a week for stage three to begin is the busy calendar of meetings next week, including a scheduled two-day session of the General Council, which Mr Walker will chair.
During this period, WTO members will be asked in confidential consultations to express to the facilitators a single preference and based on these preferences, the troika will deliver their assessment on which of the two candidates is most likely to command a consensus of the membership and become the seventh Director-General of the World Trade Organization. Mr Walker would then call a formal General Council and present the troika’s recommendation to the membership for a formal decision.
Following the third round of consultations, Mr Walker will call another Heads of Delegations meeting at which the results will be announced to the WTO membership.
The General Council agreed on July 31 that there would be three stages of consultations held over a two-month period commencing September 7. As agreed, during these two months, the number of candidates has been reduced from eight to five and then two.
In trimming the roster of candidates from five to two, WTO members have concluded the second of these consultative stages.
By implication, three candidates have been edged out of the race.
The three candidates are United Kingdom’s Liam Fox, Kenya’s Amina Jibril, and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri.