June 30, 2020 / 9:41 AM / 11 days ago

Factbox: Who's bidding to be next World Trade Organization chief?

GENEVA/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The World Trade Organization (WTO) began the process this month of selecting a new director-general to replace Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo, who is stepping down on Aug. 31, a year early.

Nominations are open until July 8 and five nominees have so far been received from Egypt, Mexico, Nigeria, South Korea and Moldova, WTO documents show. European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan said on Monday he would not be a candidate, having said previously he was considering the possibility.

Azevedo’s successor will need to steer reforms and negotiations in the face of rising protectionism, a deep recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and growing trade tensions, notably between the United States and China.

The Geneva-based body normally takes nine months to choose a new chief, but now wants to do so in three. It prefers to act by consensus, moving to a vote only as a last resort.

Below is a summary of possible candidates:

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria), board chair of global vaccine alliance Gavi

Okonjo-Iweala, 66, is an economist and development specialist who has served as Nigeria’s foreign minister and finance minister and as a managing director of the World Bank. The former Harvard and MIT student’s work has involved efforts to make immunisation programmes financially sustainable.

A document showed she has regional backing from West Africa and she told Reuters she has “strong support” from the continent. [L8N2DZ3ER] [L8N2E663I]

Abuja had previously backed another of its nationals, Yonov Frederick Agah, in a process via the African Union that was supposed to nominate a single African candidate.

Hamid Mamdouh (Egypt), currently Geneva-based lawyer

Former trade negotiator for Egypt and ex-WTO official who helped draft an agreement on trade in services in the landmark Uruguay Round deal - an experience that he said gave him essential “bridge-building” skills.

Mamdouh, 67, is currently advising the G20 presidency, Saudi Arabia, on trade and investment matters.

Arancha Gonzalez Laya (Spain), Spanish foreign minister

A lawyer, she served as chief of staff to then-WTO chief Pascal Lamy between 2005 and 2013. Trade officials say she may be unacceptable to the U.S. administration given strained relations with Washington under Lamy’s leadership.

Asked about her potential candidacy, she said she had a “full plate” with her current job.

Tudor Ulianovschi, (Moldova) former minister of foreign affairs

Ulianovschi, fluent in four languages, was foreign minister between 2018-2019 and was formerly a diplomat and has some experience in the private sector.

Jesus Seade (Mexico), 73, senior trade official in Mexican government

Seade helped rework the North American Free Trade Agreement. He previously worked at universities in Hong Kong.

Yoo Myung-hee (South Korea), 53, trade minister

Yoo is the first woman to hold the position of South Korea’s trade minister since it was created in 1948.

She led South Korea’s renegotiation of a trade deal with the United States and worked on South Korea’s trade pacts with Singapore and ASEAN.

Reporting by Emma Farge in Geneva, Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels, Andrea Shalal in Washington, William James in London, Belen Carreno in Madrid, Katharine Houreld in Nairobi and Frank Jack Daniel in Mexico City; Editing by Gareth Jones

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