Alicia Nicholls

In case you missed it, nominations for the next World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General closed on July 8, 2020. The first phase of the three-phased DG selection process is now complete.

Who is running?

Eight (8) candidates are officially in the running to become the seventh WTO DG after incumbent DG Roberto Azevedo announced in May this year his intention to step down on August 31, 2020, a full year before his second and final term expires. On June 8, nominations were officially opened, and closed July 8.

All of the candidates are well-experienced and well-qualified. The majority are from developing countries, including three from Africa. Three of the candidates are women.

The candidates are:

Dr. Jesus Seade Kuri (Mexico)

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria)

Mr. Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh (Egypt)

Mr Tudor Ulianovschi (Moldova)

Ms Yoo Myung-hee (Republic of Korea)

Ms Amina C. Mohamed (Kenya)

Mr Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)

Dr Liam Fox (United Kingdom)

Their full biographies may be accessed on the WTO’s website here.

What happens now?

During this second phase of the three-phased DG selection process the candidates will officially make themselves ‘known’ to WTO Members, starting this week.

Over the next three days, July 15-17, each candidate will participate in the special meeting of the WTO General Council where he or she will present his or her vision and take questions from the membership, followed by a press conference.

You can also access each candidate’s statement to the General Council once available here and watch the press conferences live and the recordings on the WTO’s website here.

Not surprisingly, the selection process has been expedited. This second phase of the DG selection process normally lasts three months but will instead be shorter, expiring September 7.

It should be noted, however, that even before this official campaigning period started, most candidates had already begun making their case for why they are the best person to lead the WTO at this time through media appearances and op-eds.

The third and final phase, which involves consultations with Members over their preferences to narrow the field of candidates, will start thereafter and will only last two months. The DG is chosen by consensus.

As I outlined in a previous article, while the WTO DG’s role is largely administrative and lacks any real formal power, the DG can exert considerable soft power to help members build consensus. This is especially needed at this time given the many challenges the 25-year old institution is currently facing.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B is an international trade and development specialist. Read more of her commentaries here or follow her on Twitter @licylaw. All views expressed herein are her personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of any institution or entity with which she may from time to time be affiliated.