By Sharon Atieno
Of the eight candidates contesting for the position of the Director General at the World Trade Organization (WTO), Amina Mohamed is the only Kenyan and one of the three women eyeing the post.
Though currently, the Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Heritage, Mohamed stands a high chance of clenching the position being that she is well conversant with the global trade body and its operations.
In her tenure as Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister from 2013 to 2018, she chaired the 2015 WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, and became the first African to chair the WTO’s highest forum. She played a crucial role in reaching positive outcomes, especially the decision to eliminate export subsidies in agriculture, thus contributing to fulfillment of SDG 2-zero hunger.
Additionally, during Mohamed’s role as Kenya’s Representative and Ambassador to the WTO, she was the first woman to chair the WTO’s General Council in 2005 and the Dispute Settlement Body. As General Council chair, she brokered an agreement of major importance to developing countries, an amendment to the TRIPS Agreement to assist countries with insufficient manufacturing capacities in the production of essential drugs to treat diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis.
In the same period, she was also the first woman to chair the African Group at the WTO and advanced African interests successfully at the trade body.
The quest for the next DG began after the current DG, Roberto Azevedo announced he will step down on 31 August 2020, a year before the expiry of his mandate.
According to the procedures for appointing the WTO Director-General, the appointment process shall start nine months prior to the expiry of the term of an incumbent Director-General with a notification from the Chair to the General Council.
In line with this the General Council Chair, Amb. David Walker, announced on 20 May that a one-month timeframe had been agreed during which members could submit nominations for their candidates. It is from this, that the names of Amina Mohamed and other seven candidates had been submitted before the submission deadline lapsed on 8 July.
The candidates have been invited to meet with members at a special General Council meeting from 15 to 17 July. At this meeting, they will have the opportunity to present their views and take questions from the membership.
The second phase of the process, is where the candidates “make themselves known to members”. Though this campaigning phase would normally take three months, after discussions, members had agreed to shorten the period by one month and hence will expire on 7 September.
On that date, the third phase will begin. The Chair of the General Council, together with the chairs of the Dispute Settlement Body and the Trade Policy Review Body, will start to consult with all WTO members to assess their preferences and seek to determine which candidate is best placed to attract consensus support. The third phase will last no more than two months.