South Korean, Nigerian chosen as finalists for top WTO job

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FILE – This file photo combo shows the candidates for the WTO Director-General selection process at the headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland, pictured from Wednesday to Friday, July 15 – 17, 2020, Yoo Myung-hee, of Korea, left and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, of Nigeria. The World Trade Organization says South Korea’s trade minister and a Harvard-trained former Nigerian finance minister have qualified as the two finalists to become the next director-general, ensuring a woman in the top job for the first time. WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020 that a selection committee found Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria and Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea qualified for the final round in a race expected to end in the coming weeks. (Martial Trezzini, Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, File)

GENEVA (AP) — The World Trade Organization says South Korea’s trade minister and a Harvard-trained former Nigerian finance minister have qualified as the two finalists to become the next director-general, ensuring a woman in the top job for the first time.

WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said Thursday that a selection committee found Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria and Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea qualified for the final round in a race expected to end in the coming weeks. They were picked out of a pool of five candidates.

The Geneva-based WTO’s General Council, made up of envoys from the 164-member body, eliminated Amina Mohamed, a former trade minister from Kenya; Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri, a Saudi former economy minister, and British former International Trade Secretary and Brexit proponent Liam Fox.

A previous round had cut the list of candidates from eight to five. The winner is expected to be announced no later than early November.

The previous WTO director-general, Roberto Azevedo of Brazil, made a surprise announcement in May that he would leave the job a year early, citing a “personal decision.” He left without a successor on Aug. 31.

Azevedo’s seven-year tenure was marked by intense pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump, who repeatedly accused the WTO of “unfair” treatment of the U.S. and started a trade war with China in defiance of the WTO system.

The WTO, which was created in 1995 out of the former General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, has never had a woman director-general or national from Africa as its leader.

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