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Liam Fox still in running for WTO chief as race narrows

Former minister and leading Brexiteer Liam Fox remains in the running to be the new head of the Worl..

Former minister and leading Brexiteer Liam Fox remains in the running to be the new head of the World Trade Organization.

Three other contenders have been knocked out of the competition after failing to secure enough votes.

It means five candidates remain in the race to be the next director-general.

Mr Fox would be the first British boss of the organisation, which regulates the terms of international trade.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted his congratulations to Mr Fox, saying the WTO “would be in excellent hands under his leadership”.

He has also won the support of his ministerial successor. Trade Secretary Liz Truss said she was “delighted” Mr Fox remains in the race.

“The world needs a WTO director general that will stand up for free trade and fight protectionism. Business as usual will not work. We need someone with political skill who can build consensus, get things done, and drive forward the urgent reform that is needed.

“Liam is the ideal candidate for that,” said Ms Truss.

The three candidates who left the race are Mexico’s Jesus Seade, Egypt’s Hamid Mamdouh and Moldova’s Tudor Ulianovschi.

The remaining candidates to replace the current director-general, the Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, have to secure support from the WTO’s 164 member states.

The members have said they want to reach a consensus in November. The contest comes at a crucial time for the Geneva-based body, amid a slump in global trade in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Latest odds

Mr Fox is still an outsider in the race to be the next WTO chief, according to the latest odds from Ladbrokes, which has him in fourth place at 10/1.

The other remaining candidates are:

  • Amina Mohamed of Kenya – a former cabinet minister, lawyer and diplomat. She was the chairwoman of the WTO’s general council and is 11/4 favourite
  • Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria – an economist and expert in international development who worked at the World Bank and now sits on Twitter’s board. She is a US citizen, having studied at Harvard and earned a PhD from MIT, and 2/1 second favourite
  • Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea – the first woman to be South Korea’s trade secretary, she has focused her career on trade negotiations, and 6/1 with Ladbrokes
  • Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri of Saudi Arabia – a former minister and managing director for HSBC in the Middle East. He was a pilot in the Saudi Air Force during the First Gulf War and has worked in banking since 1995. An outsider at 10/1

‘Brexit prism’

Mr Fox was the UK’s international trade secretary under former prime minister Theresa May, when he was responsible for promoting UK trade post-Brexit.

He was sacked when Mr Johnson entered Downing Street, having supported Mrs May’s Brexit withdrawal deal, which Mr Johnson opposed.

He has downplayed the importance of Brexit and did not mention it in his speech to the WTO’s governing body in July.

Asked whether ongoing trade talks between the UK and EU would prove an advantage or obstacle to his bid, he replied: “Very fortunately, not everyone in the world sees every issue through the Brexit prism.”

Speaking after his hearing, Mr Fox said the WTO needed an experienced politician – rather than a “technocrat” – to help it navigate “what is a very difficult time”.

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