Candidates for new WTO chief meet members

With the selection process for the new chief of the World Trade Organization (WTO) entering the second phase, three of the candidates presented themselves to members at a special General Council meeting here.

They each had an hour and a half to make their candidacy presentations and take questions from the membership at the meeting on Wednesday, reports Xinhua news agency.

The first presenter, former WTO Deputy Director-General Jesus Seade Kuri of Mexico, said the global trade body needs a chief with vision, leadership and political capacity.

“It is of the essence that the Director-General has a solid command of the arcane world of the WTO and trade negotiations; that he or she be aware and be sensitive to the reasons behind certain balances in the texts, and in command of the alternatives that may have been formulated or could be explored,” he noted.

Seade has an extensive experience with working with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The Mexican candidate was also chief negotiator of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria said she believes the world needs more than ever a “reinvigorated” WTO, pledging that if selected, she would prioritize delivering a successful ministerial meeting with good outcomes on fisheries, agriculture and other sectors.

“I would also prioritize updating the rulebook, unlocking the dispute settlement system, working on transparency and notification, enhancing the work of regular bodies, and strengthen the Secretariat,” said the candidate, an economist who twice served as Nigeria’s Finance Minister and briefly acted as foreign minister, and had a 25-year career at the World Bank.

In his presentation, Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh of Egypt, who is a former director of the Trade in Services and Investment Division of the WTO, and contributed to the drafting of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), stressed that the negotiating function breakdown is causing huge difficulties for the WTO as the dispute settlement function gained more strength than the other two “legs” over the past 25 years.

“Reforming the WTO is not about restructuring departments or reallocating resources across different projects or different country programs. This is about reforming the treaty, and the treaty is that enforceable contract between governments, and the only way reform can take place is through negotiations,” he said.

According to the agenda, the special session of the General Council will continue till Friday.

Over the next two days, the rest five candidates, respectively nominated by Moldova, South Korea, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and the UK will conduct the presentation.

The second phase of the selection process in which the candidates “make themselves known to members” will end on September 7, and then the General Council chairperson will consult with all WTO members before making the final decision.

Due to the unexpected announcement in May that the incumbent WTO chief Roberto Azevedo will resign on August 31, a year before his term expires, the WTO had to start the selection process for his successor on June 8.