The General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand and his co-facilitators in the selection process disclosed on Thursday that Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea have advanced to the third and final round of consultations which will determine the next director-general of the World Trade Organisation.
Walker explained that the two candidates “secured the broadest and deepest support from the membership” and they are of “outstanding qualifications.”
He emphasised that the ultimate objective of the selection process is to secure a consensus decision by members on the next director-general.
“Our aim continues to be to encourage and facilitate the building of consensus among members, and to assist in moving from this final slate of two candidates to a decision on appointment. As this is the final round of the consultation process, it should bring us to the point where we can make a recommendation to the General Council concerning that decision,” Walker said.
The General Council is the highest decision-making body of the WTO apart from the Ministerial Conference which meets every two years.
“On behalf of the entire membership, I would like to express deep gratitude for their participation in this selection process. It was clear that members consider them individuals of outstanding qualifications. I am sure you will all agree with us that in participating in the selection process, the candidates have all made a significant contribution to the standing and image of the WTO,” he told reporters in Geneva on Thursday.
By advancing two women to the final round of the selection process, the WTO is set to have the first female director-general in its 25-year history.
Okonjo-Iweala served two stints as Nigeria’s finance minister and one term as foreign affairs minister.
She has experience working at international governance bodies as a former managing director of the World Bank, and as a chairman at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.
Myung-hee is South Korea’s trade minister. During her 25-year career in government, she helped to expand her country’s trade network through bilateral accords with the United States, China and the United Kingdom.
The third and final phase of the consultation process will begin later this month and run until November 6, after which the WTO will name a consensus winner of the race.