Five candidates, two of which are African, are lined up on the starting line in the race to head the WTO, an institution that is attacked by Washington and in the throes of enormous challenges in a full global economic crisis.
The nominations are finalised on Wednesday with five candidates to claim the succession of the Brazilian Roberto Azevedo: a Mexican, an Egyptian, a Nigerian, a Moldovan and a South Korean.
In a full global economic slump caused by the pandemic Covid-19, several-sized projects are waiting for the future boss of WTO: preparing the ministerial conference in 2021, provide a boost to the negotiations that are stalling, and especially to attempt to restart the dialogue at the bottom with the United States.
Washington has threatened to quit the WTO, which he describes as “a mess”, and it paralyzes since December the court of appeal of the dispute settlement body (DSB) of the WTO.
The United States, who believe they are treated “unfairly” by the policeman of the global trade, is calling for its reform, as well as the withdrawal of China from the list of developing countries.
It is in this context that Mr. Azevedo has announced to the general surprise, in mid-may that he would leave his functions at the end of August, a year before the end of his term, for “family reasons”, forcing the 164 members of the WTO to find him a successor in three months instead of nine.
The procedure of appointment of the head of the WTO is not an election but a mechanism for consensus that works by a process of elimination.
A vote is possible as a procedure of last resort, but it has never been used. Thus, in 1999, the country had not been able to reach agreement, and had elected the two directors by dividing the term by two years, of three years each.
A resurgence of international tensions between the United States and China, the company also announces perilous this year.
“If the process of the appointment of the next director-general is highly politicized, it could have a blocking effect,” said a diplomatic source.
Without consensus, one of the deputy directors of the WTO, will take the helm on an interim basis.
Africa never had a representative at the head of the WTO, the mainland hopes to have his chances, even if there is no rule of regional belonging.
But Africans have not been able to propose a single candidate.
The african Union, caught short by the hasty departure of Roberto Azevedo, was officially selected three names, but among them only the Egyptian Hamid Mamdouh, 67, a former senior official in the WTO who also had swiss nationality, has filed his nomination. Nigeria has also presented Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (66 years old), a decision which is the subject of a legal dispute with the african Union.
Despite this dispute, “the candidate of the Nigeria gains ground in Africa,” said a diplomatic source.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, former minister of Finance and foreign Affairs and president of the global Alliance for vaccines and immunization (Gavi), is also receive a “support enormous.”
“I am confident that the african Union will take a decision to choose and support the candidate who deserves it”, she told the media in Geneva during a videoconference at the end of June.
This former director of operations of the world Bank, which driver recently one of the programs of the world health Organization (WHO) in the fight against the Covid-19, does not capitalize on its origin or her status as a woman, though none has ever led the WTO.
“I hope that the director-general of the WTO shall be elected primarily because of his merit. And if it is then of a woman or an African, it is also” well, she said.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala will face the other woman, the minister of Trade of South Korea, Yoo Myung-hee (age 53).
The Mexican Jesus Seade Kuri — who also has the lebanese nationality — is, at 73 years of age, the older candidate. Former deputy director general of the WTO, he has held positions at the world Bank and the international monetary Fund.
Moldova, for its part, presented the candidature of former minister of foreign Affairs Tudor Ulianovschi, the youngest candidate (37 years).