Triggered on May 14 by the announcement that the head of the World Trade Organization would be stepping down one year before the end of his mandate, the first stage of the selection process for a new Director General has just been completed, with five candidates selected, including three women.
On Friday September 18, the vast meeting room of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the shores of Lake Geneva was a hive of activity. The Chairman of the General Council, Ambassador David Walker of New Zealand, and his two co-facilitators, Ambassadors Dacio Castillo of Honduras and Harald Aspelund of Iceland, revealed the names of the candidates who had received the broadest support from the organization's Members.
On July 31, the WTO General Council decided that consultations with member states would take place over a two-month period, starting on September 7. The process comprises three stages. The first involves reducing the number of candidates from eight to five, then to two, before a consensus is reached to decide who will become the 7th Director-General of the World Trade Organization.
Five candidates still in the running
During confidential consultations, the Troika members, Ambassadors Walker of New Zealand, Castillo of Honduras and Aspelund of Iceland asked each delegation a single question: "Who are your preferred candidates?" WTO members indicated that the five personalities expected to remain in the running were candidates Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, Amina C. Mohamed of Kenya and Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea, as well as representatives Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Liam Fox of the United Kingdom.
Second round of consultations
The second phase of consultations will begin on September 24 and run until October 6. During this time, members will be invited, during confidential consultations, to express their preferences with a view to reducing the number of candidates to two. Following this stage, another Heads of Delegation meeting will be convened, at which the names of the finalists will be announced to WTO members. The timetable for the third and final round of consultations will also be set on this occasion. The ultimate aim of this measured and clearly defined process is to obtain a consensus decision from the membership on the next Director-General.
According to diplomats accredited to the WTO, who wish to remain anonymous, the final duel will certainly be a female one. It would pit Nigerian representative Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala against Korean candidate Yoo Myung-hee.