Good listener or strong negotiator? WTO candidates make case for top job



Alex Fang and Hidetake Miyamoto | Nikkei Asian Review

Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala and Mexico’s Seade have different prescriptions for US-China rift

NEW YORK/MEXICO CITY — The race for the top job at the World Trade Organization is in full swing, with the winner set to play a pivotal role in international trade disputes as the body becomes a new front in the power struggle between the U.S. and China.

Eight candidates are squaring off to replace the current director-general, Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo, who will resign next month. Two of the candidates, Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Mexico’s Jesus Seade, sat down with Nikkei to discuss their visions for the organization, which has faced challenges to maintain its relevance since Washington declared a trade war on Beijing in July 2018.

Okonjo-Iweala, who stressed the next WTO leader needs to be first and foremost a listener, held several senior positions at the World Bank, including its No. 2 post as managing director. Having twice served as Nigeria’s finance minister, she negotiated the cancellation of $18 billion of Nigeria’s debt and was noted for her anticorruption reform efforts.

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