Egypt, Kenya, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and the UK have nominated candidates for the post of World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General to succeed Roberto Azevêdo. On 10 July, WTO General Council Chair David Walker (New Zealand) announced expedited timelines for the next phases in the selection process to choose Azevêdo’s successor.

On 14 May, Azevêdo announced that he will step down from his post on 31 August 2020, cutting his second term as WTO Director-General short by one year. Under the procedures for the Director-General selection process, adopted by WTO members in 2002, the General Council Chair is required to begin consultations with WTO members on selection as soon as possible and “may establish expedited deadlines as necessary in consultation with Members.”

Following consultations, Walker announced on 20 May that a one-month timeframe had been agreed during which members could submit their nominations for the post. Nominations were accepted until 8 July.

On 8 June, Mexico nominated Jesús Seade Kuri who has served as chief negotiator for Mexico in the creation of the WTO, Deputy Director-General of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and WTO Deputy Director-General. Seade also served as Mexico’s chief negotiator for the US – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA).

On 9 June, Egypt nominated Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh. Mamdouh’s biography states that following his work as a negotiator for Egypt (since 1985), his involvement with the WTO as a senior official dates back to 1990.

On 9 June, Nigeria nominated Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who had recently been appointed African Union (AU) Special Envoy to mobilize international financial support for the fight against COVID-19 and World Health Organization (WHO) Special Envoy for Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.

On 16 June, Moldova nominated Tudor Ulianovschi, Moldova’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

On 24 June, the Republic of Korea nominated Yoo Myung-hee, the country’s first female Trade Minister whose career in trade spans 25 years.

On 7 July, Kenya nominated Amina C. Mohamed, Kenya’s former Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister who has chaired all of the WTO’s highest decision-making bodies, including the Ministerial Conference in 2015, the General Council in 2005, and the Dispute Settlement Body and the Trade Policy Review Body in 2004.

On 8 July, Saudi Arabia nominated Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri, the country’s former Minister of Economy and Planning with a “long career in banking.”

On 8 July, the UK nominated Liam Fox, Member of Parliament and former UK Secretary for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade.

General Council Chair Walker further announced that, following his discussions with WTO members, the second phase of the process, in which the candidates “make themselves known to members,” will expire on 7 September, a month shy of the three months it would normally take.

On that date, the third and final phase of the selection process will begin. Under this phase, General Council Chair Walker, together with Chair of the Dispute Settlement Body Dacio Castillo (Honduras) and Chair of the Trade Policy Review Body Harald Aspelund (Iceland), will consult with all WTO members “to assess their preferences and seek to determine which candidate is best placed to attract consensus support.” The third phase of the process may involve more than one stage of consultations and will “last no more than two months.” Walker said he will discuss with members the specific procedures for the third phase in the coming weeks. [WTO News Release on Director-General Selection Process Timelines]

Candidates are meeting with WTO members at a special General Council meeting on 15 and 17 July to present their views and take questions from the membership.

Since no new Director-General will be selected by 1 September, pursuant to the 2002 procedures, the General Council “shall designate one of the existing Deputy Directors-General to serve as Acting Director-General until the appointment of a new Director-General.” The four Deputy Directors-General are Yonov Frederick Agah (Nigeria), Karl Brauner (Germany), Alan Wolff (US), and Yi Xiaozhun (China).