Race for WTO chief: Who's in, who's out?

From left to right: Taeho Bark of South Korea, Tim Groser of New Zealand, Mari Elka Pangestu of Indonesia, Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo of Brazil and Herminio Blanco of Mexico. Photo by: World Trade Organization / CC BY-SA

First, there were nine. Now, only five candidates will move on to the next stage of the process that will determine Pascal Lamy’s successor.

The chairman of the World Trade Organization General Council, currently Shahid Bashir of Pakistan, delivered this update on the selection process on Friday, April 12. In his statement, he clarified the process for cutting down the list, which involved consultations with all 159 WTO members, urging them to list four “preferences” from the nine nominees.

So after the first round of consultations, here’s who made the cut: Mari Elka Pangestu of Indonesia, Tim Groser of New Zealand, Herminio Blanco of Mexico, Taeho Bark of South Korea, and Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo of Brazil.

Those who, according to the statement, are “least likely to attract consensus” are the two nominees from Africa — Alan John Kwadwo Kyerematen of Ghana and Amina Mohamed of Kenya — as well as Anabel González of Costa Rica and Ahmad Thougan Hindawi of Jordan.

The next round of consultations will begin April 16 and end on April 24.

“As I set out in my statement on 19 March, three candidates will be expected to withdraw in the second round to respect the clear preference of members for having only two candidates in the final round,” Bashir said. “We strongly urge, and expect, each member to express two preferences — not more, not less — in this round. Strict adherence to this element by all members will make this process more efficient.”

The council has set itself a May 31 deadline to decide on the next WTO chief. That person will officially assume the four-year post on Sept. 1.

Such a leadership change comes at a critical juncture for an organization that is grappling with questions about its continued relevance, particularly how it can better address the needs of developing countries.

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    Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.