As the race for the position of the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), hots up, it appears that an early front runner has emerged in the race.
According to a report from Bloomberg, at the end of last week, there was a general perception that the nominee from Kenya, Amina Mohammed, is the early front runner to the race.
Mohammed, who was a former WTO ambassador, an ex-trade minister, and a former Chair of the WTO ministerial conference, ticks most of the boxes that the delegates are looking out for in the next WTO Director-General.
She is considered fluent in the WTO’s procedures and legal texts and she personally helped negotiate the WTO’s most recent package of multilateral agreements. She is also from sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest economy in addition to being from a continent that is pursuing more free trade with the world.
The 8 candidates last week all had the opportunity to interact with the delegates and present their vision, stating why they are the best person for the job. Each of the candidates explained how they hope to fix WTO’s declining negotiating function, its paralyzed dispute settlement system, and the various other ailments that have rendered the world’s foremost arbiter of trade ineffective.
The other candidates are Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh (Egypt), Jesús Kuri (Mexico), Tudor Ulianovschi (Moldova), Yoo Myung-hee (Korea), Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri (Saudi Arabia), and Liam Fox (UK).
The first phase of the WTO’s selection process is not about identifying who has what it takes to lead the organization, but more about deciding who does not.
Although each candidate will continue their campaigns until Sept. 7, some are destined for elimination. According to some delegates, Saudi Arabia and Moldova’s candidates are in that category. While they both have impressive resumes, this probably isn’t their moment to lead the WTO.
It’s not yet clear how many candidates will drop at this first stage; some are of the opinion it might be 3 or 4. At this point, the viability of any candidate largely depends on their ability to avoid the dreaded veto.
The WTO operates on the basis of consensus and the final candidate should, in all likelihood, have the support of the WTO’s 164 members. That’s no easy feat because nations can withhold their support for any reason.