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Profiles of the 8 Candidates for WTO Director-General

On 14 May, Mr Roberto Azevêdo announced that he will step down from his post as WTO Director-General on 31 August 2020, cutting his second term 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. Candidates were submitted from Egypt, Kenya, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and the UK. Below are the profiles of each candidate.

Jesús Seade

Mexico trade adviser sees NAFTA deal in next few months - Reuters

Jesús Seade Kuri is an economist, diplomat and politician born inMexico City on 24 December 1946. He has a long history of trade negotiations and management of international financial crises. 

Seade graduated with honors as Chemical Engineer from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and earned his master and PhD in Economics from the University of Oxford, England, under the direction of James Mirrlees (Nobel Prize 1996). During his last year as a student at Oxford University, he taught a Masters Course of Microeconomics and published an article that continues to be an established reference in the area.

From 1986 to 1989, he worked at the World Bank as Chief Economist,  first, as expert in charge of Fiscal Policy in the Country Policy Department, from where he had a sustained and important involvement on fiscal policy and reform on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), then Zaire, and on the design of Morocco’s Value Added Tax (VAT). He later became Chief Economist leading all the economic work in the Department of Brazil, including the implementation of the new Brazilian VAT.

In March 1989, Jesús Seade began as Mexico’s ambassador to the GATT, where he led and won two major trade disputes, both with the U.S., over antidumping in cement and embargoes on tuna exports. During his tenure as Permanent Representative to the GATT, Ambassador Seade also led the Mexico’s accession negotiations to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1994, the first developing country to be part of it, as well as the works in the committees of which his country initially became part of: Trade and Competition.

He served as Deputy Director-General of the new World Trade Organization, and was was directly responsible for a range of important sectors, including: the WTO’s relations with government authorities in capitals, business sectors and press among others

In 1998 Ambassador Seade was invited to collaborate with the IMF, as Assistant Director. After that, he was a Senior Tax Advisor, and headed a wide range of technical assistance and other specialized work in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe. He also supervised the IMF’s work on banking, data and fiscal transparency and headed operations on fiscal transparency. Ambassador Seade was also the official responsible for the IMF’s position on any aspect of trade policy that arose, including in relation to the WTO.

Seade has also had a career in education, serving as Chair Professor at the University of Warwick, G.B. from 1976 to 1986. From 1998 to 2010, concurrently with his duties at the IMF and beyond, he was a member of the Advisory Council on International Economic Law at Georgetown University Law School in Washington DC. From 2008 to 2014 he was vice-president of Lingnan University in Hong Kong and from 2007 to 2016 he was Chair professor in economics. In 2017, he accepted and started functions as Associate Vice President for Global Affairs at the Chinese University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen, located in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, PRC.

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

I bring a bundle of qualities, Okonjo-Iweala pitches at WTO ...

Dr Okonjo-Iweala was born in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, Nigeria and was educated at Queen’s School, Enugu, St. Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan, and the International School Ibadan. She graduated magna cum laude with an AB in Economics in 1976 from Harvard University. In 1981, she earned her Ph.D in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a thesis titled Credit policy, rural financial markets, and Nigeria’s agricultural development. She received an International Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), that supported her doctoral studies.

Okonjo-Iweala had a 25-year career at the World Bank in Washington DC as a development economist, rising to the No. 2 position of Managing Director. As Managing Director, she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia. Okonjo-Iweala spearheaded several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during the 2008 – 2009, food crises, and later during the financial crisis. In 2010, she was Chair of the IDA replenishment, the World Bank’s successful drive to raise $49.3 billion in grants and low interest credit for the poorest countries in the world. 

During her time at the World Bank, she was also a member of the Commission on Effective Development Cooperation with Africa, which was set up by the Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark, and held meetings between April and October 2008.

Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister and also as Minister of Foreign Affairs and was the first female to hold both positions. During her first term as Minister of Finance under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Administration, she spearheaded negotiations with the Paris Club that led to the wiping out of US$30 billion of Nigeria’s debt, including the outright cancellation of US$18 billion. With the support of the World Bank and the IMF to the Federal Government of Nigeria, she helped build an electronic financial management platform—the Government Integrated Financial Management and Information System (GIFMIS), including the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), helping to curtail corruption in the process. As at 31 December 2014, the IPPIS platform had eliminated 62,893 ghost workers from the system and saved the Nigerian government about $1.25 billion in the process.

Following her first term as Minister of Finance, she returned to the World Bank as a Managing Director in December 2007.

In 2011, Dr Okonjo-Iweala was re-appointed as Minister of Finance in Nigeria with the expanded portfolio of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy by President Goodluck Jonathan. Her legacy includes strengthening Nigeria’s public financial systems and stimulating the housing sector with the establishment of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Corporation (NMRC). She also empowered Nigeria’s women and youth with the Growing Girls and Women in Nigeria Programme (GWIN); a gender responsive budgeting system, and the highly acclaimed Youth Enterprise with Innovation programme (YouWIN); to support entrepreneurs, that created thousands of jobs.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala is co-Chair of the Global Commission for the Economy and Climate, with Nicholas Stern and Paul Polman and previously served as the co-Chair of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala has also  been a member of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (2015-2016), chaired by Gordon Brown; the Commission on the New Climate Economy (also co-Chaired by Paul Polman and Lord Nicholas Stern); the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders Foundation; the United Nations’ Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (2012-2013); and the renowned Growth Commission (2006-2009), led by Nobel Prize winner Professor Michael Spence.

She is the founder of Nigeria’s first indigenous opinion-research organization, NOI-Polls. She also founded the Center for the Study of Economies of Africa (C-SEA), a development research think tank based in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital and is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development and the Brookings Institution.

In 2012, Okonjo-Iweala was a candidate for President of the World Bank, running against Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim; if elected, she would have been the organization’s first female president.

Since 2019, Okonjo-Iweala has been part of UNESCO’s International Commission on the Futures of Education, chaired by Sahle-Work Zewde. In 2020, the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva appointed her to an external advisory group to provide input on policy challenges.Also in 2020, she was appointed by the African Union (AU) as special envoy to solicit international support to help the continent deal with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh

Egyptian candidate to lead the WTO seeks to return negotiating ...

Mr Hamid Mamdouh is the Director of the Trade in Services division of the WTO. The Trade in Services Division of the WTO is the part of the Organization responsible for servicing the WTO Council for Trade in Services which oversees the implementation of the General Agreement of Trade in Services (GATS). The Division is also responsible for providing legal, policy and technical advice to Member governments of the WTO. Prior to that he was a Senior Counsellor in the Services Division. He had been the Secretary of the WTO Council for Trade in Services since the establishment of the WTO in 1995. During that time, he was also responsible for legal affairs in the area of Trade in Services. During the Uruguay Round negotiations his responsibilities included legal matters relating to the drafting of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). His previous positions in the GATT include: Assistant to the Deputy Director-General of the GATT and legal advisor on GATT dispute settlement. Prior to that he was a member of the Diplomatic Service of Egypt.

 As a career diplomat for commercial and economic affairs, his previous posts include; representative of Egypt to the GATT in Geneva, trade policy advisor to the Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade of Egypt, commercial attaché of the Egyptian Embassy in Canberra (Australia), and Egypt’s representative to the United Nations Economic commission for Africa in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). As a trained lawyer legal matters have constituted an important part of his work throughout his career. 

Mr Tudor Ulianovschi

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Tudor Ulianovschi is a Moldovan politician and diplomat who was Foreign Minister of Moldova in the Filip Cabinet between January 2018 and June 2019. Ambassador Tudor Ulianovschi has served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Moldova and has a distinguished career in diplomatic service of over 15 years, accumulating vast experience in international political and economic relations, including trade policy matters.

He has degrees International Public and Trade Law, at the Free International University of Moldova (a LLM degree and a PhD candidate), the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna and the Diplomatic Institute in Bucharest.

Before his diplomatic career. Ulianovshi held high-level management position in the private sector, being the Senior Vice President for Global Government Relations of a multi-national company, based in Canada

As Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of the Republic of Moldova between 2014-2016, Tudor Ulianovschi has been in charge of economic diplomacy, international trade negotiations and public diplomacy. 

Between 2016-2018 he was the Moldovan top diplomat in Geneva, serving as Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, as well as the Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization

As Moldova’s Foreign Minister in the period of 2018-2019, Amb. Ulianovschi has promoted Government decisions to open new diplomatic missions in Africa, Latin America, India and Europe.He strengthened the national strategy on foreign economic diplomacy, enhanced Moldova’s role in international and regional organizations, and expanded the number of bilateral investment treaties and foreign investment protection agreements. Minister Ulianovschi represented the Republic of Moldova at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2019, as the head of delegation, where he actively engaged in talks with foreign leaders on current challenges of the world trade system and mutually beneficial strategies for the future.

During his mandate in Geneva, Amb. Ulianovschi served on and chaired various Committees, including: Chair of the Balance of Payments Committee of the WTO, President of the Trade and Development Board at UNCTAD, Vice President of the General Assembly at WIPO, President of the Steering Committee on Trade at UNECE

In his diplomatic career, Ambassador Ulianovschi served at the Embassies of the Republic of Moldova in Washington, DC (2007-2010), Doha (2013-2014) and Geneva (2016-2018).

He has served as a legal advisor to various non-governmental organizations in the field of human and patient rights, as well as trade public law. He is also fluent in English, Russian, French and Arabic. 

He is the author of multiple publications on international relations and speaker on trade and development agenda.

Ms Yoo Myung-hee

Africa forwards 3 nominations for WTO top job - Enugu Metro

Yoo Myung-hee born on June 5 1967, she graduated from the Seoul National University with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a MPP and also holds a J.D. from Vanderbilt University Law School.  She is the current Minister for Trade of South Korea. She is the first woman to hold the position since it was created in 1948.

Yoo is widely considered as the veteran trade bureaucrat as she worked in various levels at multiple agencies of government over twenty years including the South Korean embassy to China, the Office of the President and ministries responsible for trade policies – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (now-Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (now-Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy) and most recently Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. She was previously deputy Trade Minister before her predecessor Kim Hyun-jong was reassigned as deputy national security advisor to the President.

Ms Amina C. Mohamed

President Kenyatta praises Amina Mohamed for the position of the ...

Mohamed was born on 5 October 1961 in Kakamega, Kenya, to an ethnic Somali family. She attended the Township Primary School in Kakamega for her elementary studies and later Butere Girls and Highlands Academy. Upon graduation, Mohamed moved to Ukraine on a scholarship to study at the University of Kiev.She completed the institution’s courses, earning a Master of Laws (LLM) in International Law. Mohamed later obtained a Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) in International Relations from the University of Oxford. Through a Fellowship at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), she also followed several training courses on international law.

Mohamed began her career in 1985 as a legal officer at the Kenyan Ministry of Local Government. Her duties included assessing World Bank projects and tabling municipal by-laws. Between 1986 and 1990, Mohamed served as a Legal Advisor in Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she drafted and negotiated various bilateral and international treaties.

From 1990 to 1993, Mohamed acted as a Legal Advisor to Kenya’s mission at the UN head office in Geneva, Switzerland.There, she worked alongside officials from the International Labour Organization, World Health Organization and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization. In 1997, Mohamed began serving as Legal Advisor to the Kenyan delegation at the UN Security Council.

Between 2000 and 2006, Mohamed worked as the Ambassador and Permanent Representative for the Kenya diplomatic mission in Geneva. She was also the Chairperson, Coordinator and Spokesperson for the African Group in the WTO’s Human Rights Commission. In 2002, Mohamed acted as President of the Conference on Disarmament and was appointed the first female chairperson of the International Organization for Migration.

She chaired the Trade Policy Review Body in 2003, and served as the chairman of the Dispute Settlement Body in 2004. In 2005, Mohamed became the first woman to chair the WTO’s General Council. She was also a Member of the Executive Boards and Committees of the WIPO, ILO, WHO, UNCTAD, UNHCR and UNAIDS from 2001 to 2005. Between 2006 and 2007, Mohamed acted as Director for both Europe and Commonwealth Countries as well as Diaspora matters for Kenya. She also chaired the Department of Foreign Trade and Economic Affairs’ Committee on Strengthening and Restructuring.

She was the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs of Kenya from 2008 to 2011. In July 2011,Mohamed was named Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

In 2017, Mohamed was nominated by Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, to be chair of the African Union Commission (AUC) but lost the position to the foreign affairs minister of Chad.

Since 2013, Mohammed has served as Kenya’s cabinet secretary for Foreign affairs, education, as well as sports, heritage and culture. She is multilingual, speaking her native Somali as well as English, Russian and Swahili, with a working knowledge of French.

Mr Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri

WTO | 2020 News items - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia nominates Mr ...

Al Tuwaijri’s educational background is as follows: Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) in finance with Honors from King Saud University 1997 B.Sc in Aeronautics, 1986, King Faisal Air Force Academy, Riyadh

From 1995 to 2007, AL-TUWAIJRI worked at the  Saudi British Bank (SABB), Saudi Arabia. He joined as Head of Risk management in the Treasury, then Deputy Treasurer and finally as Group Head of Treasury and Board member of HSBC Saudi Arabia. As the Treasurer of this major operation, He was in charge of managing currency risk, rates, balance sheet mismatches, funding and liquidity. From 2007 to 2010, he served as Managing Director and CEO of J.P. Morgan Saudi Arabia.

Between 2010 to 2016, he served as Group Managing Director, Deputy Chairman and CEO of HSBC Bank Middle East and North Africa, Head of Global Banking and Markets Division- Middle East and North Africa. He led as a regional chief Executive Officer with a coverage that included Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, Iraq, and Pakistan. Ramallah. He dealt with more than 30 regulators including central banks, capital markets authorities, tax authorities and ministries of trade. 

Since 2016, he has served as  Minister of Economy and Planning, Saudi Arabia where his priorities have been to foster the Saudi economy through comprehensive economic reforms, policies, strategic planning and regulations to achieve the Kingdom’s diversification objectives including removing obstacles to productivity and competitiveness. He has focused on strengthening the integration of SMEs into the local and global economy; encouraging privatization and PPP; and enhancing regional and international cooperation with trading partners and relevant stakeholders based on best standards to promote trade, and leverage on best practices to achieve economic prosperity and sustainability. While focusing on the realization of Saudi Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program, he was keen to strengthen policy research and analysis that will better position the economy of the Kingdom to support the evolving trade and investment policy environment. 

As a strong advocate to the UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and to economic growth and social development, he has spared no efforts to establish the NDF (National Development Fund) which now have under its umbrella seven national funds. The funds cater for real estate development fund, Saudi industrial development fund, Saudi agricultural fund, Saudi fund for development, Saudi tourism fund, human resource development fund, and Social development fund.

Throughout his career, he has been a member of over 45 high level committees, boards and commissions, some of which include:- 

  • Member of the Finance and budgetary committee (Saudi Royal Court) 
  • Member of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA) 
  • Member of the Board of Directors of Saudi Aramco 4 
  • Board Member and Chairman of the investment committee at the Public Investment Fund (PIF) 
  • Vice Chairman of the National Development Fund (NDF) 
  • Chairman of the National Transformation Program (NTP) 
  • Board member and head of investment and audit committees of the Royal Commission for the holy sites 
  • Chairman of the Strategic Partnership Program 
  • Member of the Saudi Strategic committee 

AL-TUWAIJRI is currently, Minister advising the royal court on international and local economic strategic matters.

Dr Liam Fox

Who is Liam Fox? Meet the new Secretary of State for International ...

The Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP is a British politician who has been a staunch advocate for free-trade and a defender of the rules based global trading system based on the WTO.

Dr Fox was born in Scotland and studied medicine at the University of Glasgow before practising as a doctor in the NHS. He also worked as a civilian army medical officer and a divisional surgeon with St John ambulance, a voluntary medical charity. He has also worked as a speech writer to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. 

Dr Fox entered the House of Commons in 1992 and has served in a wide range of posts in both government and opposition. In the government of Prime Minister John Major, he served as Lord Commissioner of the Treasury and then as Minister in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office where he answered on Trade and Aid Policy in the House of Commons. It was during this time that he worked extensively on what became known as the ‘Fox agreement’ in Sri Lanka, designed to help foster the conditions in which a negotiated solution to the country’s civil war could be achieved.

In opposition, between 1997 and 2010, he held a number of roles including Chairman of the Conservative Party, Shadow Health Secretary, Shadow Foreign Secretary, Shadow Defence Secretary and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson.

He was appointed Defence Secretary under Prime Minister David Cameron in May 2010, overseeing a major reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence and British involvement in the campaigns in Afghanistan and Libya. He has continued to argue that there needs to be a better understanding about the links between Trade, Prosperity and Security, a theme that was a regular feature of his time as international trade secretary. 

Following his period as Defence Secretary he founded a charity, Give Us Time, which provides family holidays for those who serve in the armed forces, especially those who saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. While there are a number of charities that look after service personnel themselves, Dr Fox felt that too little support was given to the families of service personnel whose own hardship and sacrifice often went unrecognised. 

Dr Fox is a member of the UK Parliament and a Privy Counsellor. As International Trade Secretary under Prime Minister Theresa May, from 2016 to 2019, he successfully built a new department of government to oversee the creation of the UK’s first independent trade policy for over 40 years post Brexit. Strongly anti-protectionist, he was also a passionate advocate of the ITC’s ‘SheTrades’ initiative, believing that greater access to trade for women is both economically empowering and socially progressive. 

Written by Emeka Nweze

Content writer and contributor.

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