Nigeria’s candidate for the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has made it to the next round of voting after a selection process which saw three candidates miss out.

With this development, five candidates are still in the race for the WTO top job after securing enough support to guarantee a place in the next round of voting.

General Council Chair, David Walker of New Zealand, and his two co-facilitators in the selection process disclosed the five candidates who had secured the broadest and deepest support from the WTO membership and should consequently advance to the next stage of the process.

After due consultations, the selected members are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea, Amina C. Mohamed of Kenya, Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Liam Fox of the United Kingdom.

The General Council Chair, Amb. Walker said, “Throughout the six days of consultations it was clear to us that the entire membership is both committed to and fully engaged in this process. Members consider all (the candidates) highly qualified and respected individuals. I would also like to pay tribute to the dignified manner in which they, their delegations, and their Governments have conducted themselves in this process. Their willingness to engage, especially at these challenging times, has been greatly appreciated, and the Organization is in their debt. Their expertise and high professional and personal qualities are highly valued and respected by all Members. I am sure I speak on behalf of all of you in wishing them well in their future endeavours.”

According to the WTO, the candidates that failed to make the next round are Jesus Seade (Mexico), Tudor Ulianovschi (Moldova), and Hamid Mamdouh (Egypt).

The exit of Jesus Seade of Mexico may come as a surprise to many having been touted by some quarters as a favourite for the job. Backed by experience and having served as the founding Deputy Director-General for WTO, his reputation preceded him. However, with many quarters calling for a fresh face to revive WTO, he failed to secure enough support from the WTO membership to make the next round. This bodes well for Dr Okonjo-Iweala who had always reiterated the need for a new leader with fresh ideas.

Before the emergence of Dr Okonjo-Iweala as Nigeria’s candidate, the African Union had backed Egypt’s candidate, Hamid Mamdouh. With his disqualification, Africa might decide to unite behind its most realistic candidate.

According to Amb. David Walker, the second phase of consultations will begin on 24 September and run until 6 October. In this phase, three candidates will be removed from the race while the remaining two will make the final round.

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