Here’s how the WTO will decide on its new Director-General and who’s running

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The World Trade Organization (WTO) is currently deliberating on who will become the next head of the group and take on the role of director-general, with presentations beginning today.

The incumbent Roberto Azevedo will leave the post at the end of August, after saying he would leave the position a year early.


The procedure for appointing the next director-general is unusual in comparison to many other positions, as it is not elected. Rather, the body uses a different system of consultation to decide on its head.

The process formally began on June 8, when all WTO members were allowed to nominate a candidate for the director-generalship. Lasting a month, there are now eight candidates who have been nominated by their respective countries.

The WTO is now in its second phase of deciding on a leader.

All of the candidates now have a chance to meet the members of the organization and make themselves known. This is still ongoing with further press conferences for candidates organized for Friday.

After the candidates have all had their opportunity to speak, various bodies within the WTO get together to consult with the WTO’s members and assess their preferred candidate. Eventually, the last candidate remaining from this process will become the director-general. This is the longest part of the process, but will last no more than two months, according to the WTO’s website.

Who are the WTO candidates?

Mexico: Dr Jesús Kuri

An economist and diplomat, Kuri was nominated for the position on June 8. Kuri was previously Mexico’s negotiator to the WTO and a founding deputy director-general of the group.

Nigeria: Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Okonjo-Iweala is a development economist and former finance minister of Nigeria. She was nominated for the position June 9.

Egypt: Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh

One of four Africans vying for the position, Mamdouh was also nominated on June 9. A Swiss-Egyptian, Mamdouh is a senior lawyer at an international law firm and a former director of the trade in services and investment division of the WTO.

Moldova: Tudor Ulianovschi

Ulianovschi, nominated to the post on June 16, is the former minister of foreign affairs of Moldova and has also served as the country’s top diplomat to the UN and WTO.

South Korea: Yoo Myung-hee

Yoo served as the first female Trade Minister for South Korea, and has been working with the WTO since 1995, when she took the top position in the Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. Yoo was nominated to the role on June 24.

Kenya: Amina Mohamed

Mohamed was Kenya’s foreign affairs and international trade minister from 2013 to 2018, and was the first African to chair a WTO ministerial conference, the organization’s top event. Mohamed was nominated on July 7.

Saudi Arabia: Mohammad al-Tuwaijri

Al-Tuwaijri was Saudi Arabia’s minister of economy and planning between 2016 and 2020, where he oversaw part of Kingdom’s ambitious economic transformation plan, and has served in various other ministerial appointments throughout his career. Al-Tuwaijri was nominated on July 8.

UK: Dr. Liam Fox

Fox is a British politician who has served as the secretary for international trade and secretary of defence in the UK. Fox was also nominated to the post on July 8.

Al-Tuwaijri and Fox are the last two members to have a press conference, with both set to take place Friday.

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