World Trade Organization members selected two final candidates Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee to advance to the final round in the race to lead the Geneva-based trade body, according to people familiar with the matter.
By advancing two women to the final round of the selection process, the WTO will likely have the first female director-general in its 25-year history.
Okonjo-Iweala served two stints as Nigeria’s finance minister and one term as foreign affairs minister.
She has experience working at international governance bodies as a former managing director of the World Bank and as a chairman at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.
Yoo is South Korea’s trade minister. During her 25-year career in government, she has helped expand her country’s trade network through bilateral accords with the U.S., China, and the U.K.
WTO General Council Chairman David Walker plans to formally announce the results to the institution’s delegates on Thursday morning in Geneva.
The United Kingdom’s Liam Fox, Kenya’s Amina Chawahir Mohamed Jibril, and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri did not secure enough support in the second round of consultations, according to people familiar with the matter.
The third and final phase of the consultation process will begin later this month and run until Nov. 6, after which the WTO will endeavor to name a consensus winner of the race.
Clouding the outlook for the selection process is the U.S. presidential election Nov. 3. The WTO makes decisions on a consensus basis, and a lack of American support for any of the finalists could mean delays in picking the new director-general.
If WTO members are unable to select a leader by consensus, a vote requiring a qualified majority could be held as a last resort, which would be an unprecedented development for the organization.