Two female finalists . . .
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has announced the names of the two candidates who made it to the final round for selecting the organization’s next director-general – the top officer responsible for leading the organization’s administrative operations. Yoo Myung-hee, the incumbent trade minister of South Korea, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance minister, will compete to be the first female head of the WTO in its 25-year history. Following the next round of consultations with 164 member countries between October 19 and 27, the WTO expects to make its final decision before November 7. Both candidates are experienced in working on international trade issues in their past roles and are, as WTO spokesperson Keith Rockwell phrased, “remarkably well qualified” to run the organization.
Taking the helm at a difficult time . . .
Whoever assumes the position next will have to lead the WTO in the face of mounting challenges: a severely weakened global economy and sluggish international trade amid the coronavirus pandemic, and a prolonged U.S.-China trade war. Okonjo-Iweala highlighted reforms to the dispute settlement system and rules for technological developments as her priorities. Yoo, who would be the first WTO head from East Asia if selected, stressed multilateralism and the WTO’s significance as the venue for U.S. and China to resolve their trade disputes. She has extensive experience negotiating with China during the RCEP and China–South Korea Free Trade Agreement negotiations, and with the U.S. during the KORUS FTA renegotiation.
A much-needed opportunity for WTO reform . . .
Protectionist policies and fights for trade supremacy have constantly challenged and undermined the WTO in the past several years, and the body currently faces a legal limbo with the U.S. government refusing to send panel representatives. The hope is that its next leader will be able to “restore the organization to full strength and viability . . . and its reputation,” according to former U.S. trade official William Reinsch. With Canada’s softwood lumber case currently in legal limbo with the U.S., some positive changes along this line would be desirable for Canada.
- Bloomberg: Race to become WTO leader narrows to the final two candidates
- The Hankyoreh: “유명희, WTO 사무총장 결선 진출”…첫 한국인·여성 수장 나오나
- The Mainichi: World Trade Organization to be led by a woman for first time