Two African women are among the five candidates still in the running to take the World Trade Organization top job.
No Africans and no women have ever been at the helm of the global trade body. On Friday the pool of eight candidates was whittled down to five. It includes women Amina Mohamed of Kenya, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, and Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea.
Male candidates still in the running are Liam Fox of Britain and Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri of Saudi Arabia. The narrowing of the field came after the WTO in recent days hosted consultations, dubbed “confessionals”, with all 164 member states.
The three with the least support, Jesus Saede Kuri of Mexico, Tudor Ulianovschi of Moldova and Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh of Egypt, were cut from the list.
The WTO has been leaderless since Roberto Azevedo stepped down as WTO chief last month, a year ahead of schedule.
The trade body was created in 1995 and has had three director-generals from Europe, and one each from Oceania, Asia and South America.
The winner will be decided in the third round of voting in early November. But it is feared increasing politicisation of the organisation, which relies on consensus to reach decisions, could draw out the process much longer.
Whoever is named the successor will have a tough job ahead as the global economy is battered by the coronavirus pandemic and the United States and China are locked in a trade dispute.
The organisation is also facing attacks by Washington after cristicism from the Trump administration last year crippled the WTO’s highest judicial institution, the appellate body.
The US has refused to appoint judges to replace those retiring and threatened to leave the WTO.