WITA Webinar: Conversation with WTO Director General Candidate Hamid Mamdouh




On June 23, WITA hosted a conversation with Hamid Mamdouh, the former Director of the Trade in Services and Investment Division of the WTO. Mr. Mamdouh has also held the position of Senior Counsellor in the Services Division and was the Secretary of the WTO Council for Trade in Services since the establishment of the WTO in 1995.

WITA Webinar Featuring: 

Abdelhamid (Hamid) Mamdouh, Senior Counsel, King & Spalding LLP, WTO Director General Candidate

Ambassador Rufus Yerxa, President, National Foreign Trade Council, and former Deputy Director General of the WTO

Wendy Cutler, Vice President, and Managing Director, Washington D.C. office of the Asia Society Policy Institute

Webinar Summary:

Moderator: Ambassador Rufus Yerxa, gives his thoughts and perspective in a series of questionnaires targeted to Director General Candidate Hamid Mamdouh. During this webinar, the moderator discussed the issues, reforms, and the structure of the WTO and how the next candidate will better implement rules and regulations to optimize the role of the organization in multilateral systems. Panelist Wendy Cutler gave the introduction to the main topic of discussion by stating the following questions: “What qualifications does the new candidate need? Is the WTO looking for someone who has more experience in the trade or a political background?” We now see candidates from many different regions such as Egypt, Mexico, Nicaragua, Moldova, Korea, and other countries applying for these positions. This application process may take a while due to the recent resignation from former WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo.

Moderator: Ambassador Rufus Yerxa begins by asking: “Why are you a candidate, and why should you be selected for this position”? Director-General Candidate Hamid Mamdouh responded by stating that he has fundamental beliefs in the importance of trade and what trading means. He also noted that the WTO needs a different approach to leadership. He believes that he can incorporate that into the WTO agenda.

Candidate Hamid Mamdouh emphasized that the WTO’sWTO’s function is not about finding an executive leader or facilitating and mediating to promote solutions for global problems. The WTO’s role is to diagnose the issues with trust and confidence from the members; trade negotiations are particularly important. As a Director General Candidate, he promises to reform the enforceable contract with members of the WTO, looking at the organization’s problems, the successes, the mistakes, and how the world trade has transformed.

Moderator: Ambassador Rufus Yerxa briefly discussed the role and impact of developing countries within the WTO; in this example, more significant economies such as the United States. Following this question, he shared with the viewers the following question: “How Important do you think the post-pandemic is for the WTO? Director-General Candidate Hamid Mamdouh stated that we could use this crisis to trade with other countries in the areas of medical trade and food products. In this case, it is uncertain when things will go back to normal, which could result in higher levels of debt. Lastly, this webinar concluded with questions coming from the audience. These questions moderated by WITA director Ken Levinson referred to the plurilateral system, tariffs, GATT, how losing the WTO as an organization will look like.