Geneva (AFP)

The WTO launched on Monday the procedure for the appointment of its director general, the current boss, the Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, leaving at the end of August, a year earlier than expected, in the midst of the global economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Applicants have one month to submit their applications, while names of Africans and Europeans circulate in the media.

If there is no geographic rotation system, Africa hopes that the position will return to it for the first time. But the continent has not yet chosen a single candidate.

Several names have thus been heard, such as the former Egyptian diplomat Hamid Mamdouh, who worked for a long time at the WTO, or even the Beninese Eloi Laourou, current ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, and the Kenyan Amina Mohamed, former diplomat at Geneva and already a candidate against Azevedo in 2013.

In Nigeria, the authorities finally nominated Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as a candidate, while Yonov Frederick Agah, currently one of the deputy directors of the WTO, was first selected. Former Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala currently chairs the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (Gavi).

The African Union hoped to find a single candidate for July because the nomination period for the next head of the WTO was not to begin in December. But the announcement a few weeks ago of the anticipated departure of the current boss of the WTO, the Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, took everyone by surprise.

If diplomats recognize that there have never been Africans at the head of the WTO, voices have begun to rise to demand the presence of a representative of developed countries so that there is a sandwich course after Brazil.

Several Europeans are also interested, according to media.

A source in Brussels confirmed to AFP that the Irishman Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Trade since the end of 2019 and for Agriculture from 2014 to 2019, is thus thinking of launching his candidacy.

Other names have also circulated, such as the Dutch Minister of Commerce Sigrid Kaag, whose spokesperson told AFP, however, "that she was not available to become director general of the WTO".

The name of Spanish Arancha Gonzalez, Minister for Foreign Affairs, was also mentioned. But "the minister has already explained that she was hired on her job and her job at the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," said her spokesman for AFP.

Europeans plan to discuss the issue on Tuesday, and whether or not to run a single candidate. If they want a chance to win, they will also have to convince other developed countries of their choice, including the United States.

The sixth WTO Director-General announced in mid-May that he would step down at the end of August, a year earlier than expected, for "family" reasons.

apo-burs / noo / pcm

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