Former Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has advanced to the final round in the race to lead the World Trade Organization.
Members of the Geneva-based trade body also selected South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee.
The final two were selected from a list of five candidates.
The initial pool of eight candidates to replace Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down as WTO director-general in August – a year ahead of schedule, was narrowed down to five last month.
The three eliminated during the second round of “confessionals” – in which all member states confidentially voice their preferences – were Liam Fox of Britain, Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri of Saudi Arabia, and Amina Mohamed of Kenya.
Jesus Saede Kuri of Mexico, Tudor Ulianovschi of Moldova and Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh of Egypt were cut during the first round.
The WTO will likely have the first female director-general in its 25-year history as no woman has ever headed the global trade body.
The official announcement of the two candidates left standing is expected tomorrow (Thursday).
But several sources familiar with the member states’ decision said that “Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria had made it”, while one source said “Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea had also made the cut”.
Okonjo-Iweala and Yoo’s candidacies received a boost earlier this week when EU member states officially threw their weight behind them.
A third and final round of consultations will begin later this month and is scheduled to run until November 6, when the WTO aims to agree by consensus on the next director-general.
Okonjo-Iweala, 66, served as Nigeria’s first female finance and foreign minister, and has a 25-year career behind her as a development economist at the World Bank, eventually becoming its number two.
She is also on the Twitter board of directors and is a special envoy for the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 fight.
If she emerges triumphant from the final elimination round, she would not only be the first woman, but also the first African to lead the global trade body.
Yoo, 53, is meanwhile currently serving as her country’s first female trade minister, following a career in trade diplomacy and foreign affairs.