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Kenya's Amina Mohamed (third left) is a long serving Foreign Affairs Minister and now heads the Sports docket.


President Kenyatta says Amina up to the task for WTO top job

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 9- President Uhuru Kenyatta has endorsed Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed for the World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General’s post, saying she is uniquely qualified to lead the global organization.

The President reiterated that Amina understands the WTO and its processes, having chaired all its high-level decision-making bodies when she was the Council chair.

“My experience working with her over the years and watching her work with others has convinced me that she is an effective leader and without doubt, a master consensus builder. She listens to advice and works hard always to find common ground,” Kenyatta said.

“I have no doubt in my mind that her leadership at the WTO will, without doubt, be a game-changer, that will enable this important institution to meet the requirements of its Member States and to better address the evolving demands of the 21st Century, and this, led by a proven consensus-builder,” he said.

Kenyatta further pointed out that Amina’s wealth of  experience with the WTO and the multilateral trading system combined with her extensive track record in international relations and her political experience makes her fit for the position.

“Amina Mohamed has served this nation greatly across several ministerial portfolios. It should also be noted that Minister Mohamed chaired the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference that was held here in Nairobi and that was highly successful.  She is the current President of the 14th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development,” Kenyatta added.

Kenya submitted Amina’s candidature for the position of Director-General of the World Trade Organization, in which she is battling it out with 7 candidates from Egypt, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria, South Korea, Britain and Saudi Arabia.

 The World Trade Organization promotes trade for the benefit of all countries.

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 It is the only institution that provides a unique forum for trade negotiations and for the settlement of disputes among its members. It is also the only platform for the integration of developing nations into the world economy.

Amina, 58, first ran for the post in 2013. Her candidacy this time means there are three Africans and three women in the contest.

Britain’s first post-Brexit international trade secretary Liam Fox, former Saudi economy minister Mohammed al-Tuwaijri and Amina all threw their hats in the ring in the final 24 hours before Wednesday’s deadline.

They join candidates from Egypt, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria and South Korea, a WTO official confirmed after the close of nominations.

The WTO General Council will meet from July 15-17 to hear their presentations and quiz them on their plans for the global trade body, which was beset with mammoth challenges even before the pandemic-driven global economic crisis struck.

“As the world seeks to recover from the shared challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of free and fair trade has never been more crucial,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in his letter to the WTO, nominating Fox.

He said the former defence minister, 58, could implement the necessary reforms “to ensure the global trading system truly delivers for all WTO members.”

– Pile of problems –

The new chief must revive stalled trade talks, lay the ground for the 2021 ministerial conference — one of the WTO’s major events — and thaw relations with the United States.

The WTO finds itself caught in the middle of rising tensions between Washington and Beijing.

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The United States, which has threatened to leave the WTO, has blocked the organisation’s dispute settlement appeal system since December, and wants China moved up from the developing economies category.

The Geneva-based organisation is staging a swift contest to replace outgoing director-general Roberto Azevedo.

In a surprise move in mid-May, the Brazilian career diplomat announced he was stepping down one year early at the end of August.

Azevedo, 62, said he was ending his second four-year term early for personal reasons, forcing the WTO’s 164 member states to come up with a successor in just three months instead of the usual nine.

Rather than an election, the selection procedure relies on finding consensus, with candidates gradually being eliminated in turn.

Besides the three late entrants, the other candidates are South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee; Mexico’s former WTO deputy director-general Jesus Seade Kuri; former Nigerian foreign and finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Egyptian former diplomat Hamid Mamdouh; and former Moldovan foreign minister Tudor Ulianovschi.

– First African WTO boss? –

Since the WTO was created in 1995, three of its directors-general were from Europe, while one each came from Oceania, Asia and South America.

Africa fancies its chances this time, even though there is no regional rotation principle at the global trade body.

However, African nations have so far failed to convene around a single candidate.

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Mamdouh, 67, a veteran former senior WTO official who is also a Swiss national, is the only contender from the continent with any express backing from the African Union.

Nigeria’s decision to stand Okonjo-Iweala against him has triggered a legal dispute with the AU.

Nevertheless, Okonjo-Iweala, 66, “is gaining ground within Africa,” a diplomatic source said.

The former World Bank number two insisted that the WTO — which has never had a female leader — must choose is next chief “on merit”.

“And then, if it happens to be a woman or an African, that is also good,” she told reporters in Geneva at a virtual press conference in late June.

Yoo, 53, is the other female candidate.

The youngest contender is 37-year-old Ulianovschi, while Seade, at 73, is the oldest. The Mexican has held posts at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

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