For the first time, two women – one from Nigeria and another from South Korea – are going head to head for the World Trade Organization’s top job.
No woman has ever headed the global trade arbiter, which has seen the United States at loggerheads with China in many of its meetings in recent times.
“The two candidates who secured the broadest and deepest support from the membership and who should subsequently advance to the final round are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria and Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea,” said the WTO.
The WTO describes the selection as a process and not an election.
“This is a process designed to build consensus around one candidate, which candidate is most likely to attract that consensus,” WTO Information Director Keith Rockwell told journalists.
“It’s not a vote. It’s not something that automatically goes to someone from one country or another. It’s a process that is designed to see where that consensus lies.”
A third and final round of meetings will take place on Oct.19-27.
“We’re supposed to have had a decision by the 7th of November, two months from the start of this consultation process,” said Rockwell.
The EU declared its support for the Nigerian and South Korean at the weekend.
Okonjo-Iweala and Yoo’s candidacies received a boost earlier this week when EU member states said they were supporting them.
The 66-year-old Okonjo-Iweala was Nigeria’s first female finance and foreign minister, and served for more than two decades at the World Bank, before assuming its second-highest position.
She could become the first African to head the world trade body.
Yoo, 53, a trade and foreign ministry diplomat, is South Korea’s first female trade minister.
“The process has gone really smoothly, given its complexity,” said Rockwell.
The WTO is another multilateral body that US has strongly criticized and called for its reform.
The US has refused to allow the process of selecting appeal judges for its dispute settlement body to go ahead, leaving it in a state of paralysis.
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