The intense campaign that Mexican President AndrÃ©s Manuel LÃ³pez Obrador's government is pushing for JesÃºs Seade to win the presidency of the World Trade Organization could find its strongest rival in three women: the candidates of South Korea, Kenya, and Nigeria. The deadline for entering candidates arrived this week and the race is down to seven countries: Mexico, United Kingdom, South Korea, Kenya, Moldova, Egypt, and Nigeria.
Mexican foreign service sources believe the two African women, both with impeccable credentials and long careers in the field, could present the strongest challenge to Seade. But at the National Palace, there is a sense that the real competition is from Korea's Yoo Myung-hee, the current Korean trade minister with extensive experience in trade agreements and multilateral negotiations.
The opportunity for Seade opens up since the prospective German candidate, Phil Hogan, who is currently the European Union's trade commissioner, did not run. He had the support of Europe on him; and the UK's proposal, Liam Fox, will not get it because he backed Brexit.
In the web of international alliances, Mexico seeks the support of the United States and Europe. Meanwhile, Argentina is already worried about this move, as they fear losing the support that LÃ³pez Obrador has given to Gustavo BÃ©liz, President Alberto FernÃ¡ndez's candidate to head the Inter-American Development Bank. They believe that, in exchange for placing Seade in the WTO, Mexico might align itself completely with the U.S. agenda and abandon the progressive front that AMLO had shown with FernÃ¡ndez.
Last month, Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Harvard-trained economist who served as finance minister from 2003 to 2006 and then from 2011 to 2015, presented her candidacy. She is renowned for her fight against corruption in a country plagued by it. Before that, Okonjo-Iweala spent 25 years at the World Bank, where she became director of operations, the agency's second most important position. The former minister would have the influential support of Switzerland.
The other candidate is Kenyan Amina Mohamed, who currently serves as Minister of Sports and Culture in President Uhuru Kenyatta's cabinet. In her country she has also served as Minister of Education (2018-2019) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (2013-2018). Trained in Kiev and Oxford, Mohamed spent much of her career in the organization she now seeks to chair.
The problem for either African candidate is that support in the region is divided into three. In addition to Mohamed and Okonjo-Iweala, the Egyptian Abdel Hamid Mamdouh, who claims to have the support of the African Union, is seeking the nomination. He also said, in an interview with The Africa Report, that the Nigerian candidate cannot get the support of the African organization due to the fact that she presented her candidacy out of time. The Egyptian, a lawyer by training, worked for 20 years at the WTO, since its foundation in 1995, where he held three important positions.
The intention of the US and Europe is, of course, to limit China's increasing influence in the organisation.
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