The process of selecting the new director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is now in its final stages.
Nigeria’s former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee are the final two candidates who have been selected form an initial list of eight candidates.
And since both the candidates are females, it means that the global trade arbitrating body will have its first woman director general if the members of the organization are able to coalesce around one them in the final stages of selection.
Apart from both being students at American universities, both Okonjo-Iweala and Yoo have political and international experience.
With an additional US nationality, Okonjo-Iweala has served for two terms as a finance minister of Nigeria and has had a short stint as foreign minister of the country as well. But for bulk of her career, she had spent at the World Bank as an economist. Ultimately she became the managing director of that global organization which essentially made her the second in command. She has been an unsuccessful candidate for the top job at the bank.
Currently she holds the chair of the board of the international vaccines alliance, Gavi.
Compared to some other candidates, she has not spent her career immersed in the details of trade policy. But she has often had to deal with international trade by virtue of her work as a development economist and finance minister of Nigeria.
She describes trade as “a mission and a passion”. Okonjo-Iweala would be the first African to be director general of the WTO is selected to the top job.
In contrast, Yoo is considered to be much more of a trade specialist.
She hinted that her entire lifetime had been spent in the area during her statement to the WTO’s general council. She was born in the same year that South Korea acceded to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, she said. the GAT became one of the key elements of the WTO’s rule book.
In the year the WTO was born, 1995, she had started her career in trade, she said.
During her career she had also been closely involved with key trade negotiations that South Korea had held with various countries – including the ones with China and the United States. She also made a point of her “deep knowledge and insight into the details of various areas of trade agreements”.
Their abilities to in bringing sides together in negotiations were keenly pointed out by both the candidates. That is a skill the successful candidate will have to draw on extensively because te member countries need to come to an agreement for most of the issues tat are brought in formt of the WTO.
(Adapted from BBC.com)