Race for top WTO job narrows as three candidates depart

Three women, 2 from Africa, in final five for WTO leadership race

A report by Bloomberg on Friday said members of the global trade body made a decision to select Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, former Managing Director of the World Bank, along with four other candidates they considered the best fit for the next DG of the organisation as the race moves closer to the final phase in the coming weeks.

Yoo is now competing against candidates from seven countries - Mexico, Nigeria, Egypt, Moldova, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Britain.

The worldwide trade body is looking for a leader to replace Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down at the end of August.

Amid COVID-19 and major trade wars, the intergovernmental body that has been helping to regulate global trade between nations since 1995 is widely seen to be in need of reform, with a lot riding on the competition's outcome.

The narrowing of the field came after the WTO in recent days hosted consultations, dubbed "confessionals", with all 164 member states.

The Geneva-based WTO said Mexico's Jesus Seade, Egypt's Hamid Mamdouh, and Moldova's Tudor Ulianovschi didn't secure enough support in a first of three rounds of voting.

"Honoured to be through to the second round", Fox, Britain's first post-Brexit global trade secretary, tweeted after the decision was made public.

Three women, 2 from Africa, in final five for WTO leadership race
WTO Election: Okonjo-Iweala among five top contenders as three candidates are dropped

But there have been calls for an African to finally get a shot at running the organisation, which since its creation in 1995 has counted three director-generals from Europe, and one each from Oceania, Asia and South America.

The spokesman announced that the second round will begin on September 24 and continue through October 6.

"The United States must be allowed to defend itself against unfair trade practices, and the Trump Administration will not let China use the WTO to take advantage of American workers, businesses, farmers and ranchers", US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer said earlier this week. "The process has gone smoothly", said WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell.

Without urgent and needed reform, the organisation risks playing a nominal role in what is undoubtedly the biggest economic crisis in its 25 year history.

The global trade body has also faced relentless attacks from Washington, which has crippled the WTO dispute settlement appeal system and threatened to leave the organisation altogether.

The goal is to name a new leader by November 7.

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