Saudi Arabia's WTO chief candidate says reform necessary for organisation

Saudi Arabia, candidate, lead, World Trade Organization,  Mohammad Al Tuwaijri
Saudi Arabia has submitted royal court advisor Mohammed Al Tuwaijri as a candidate to head the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Geneva, Switzerland - Al Tuwaijri says global trade body should focus on successes rather than disagreements.

By Wam/Reuters

Published: Sun 19 Jul 2020, 1:10 AM

Saudi Arabia's candidate to head the World Trade Organization (WTO), Mohammad Al Tuwaijri, said on Friday that the organisation was in a state of stagnation and that reform was necessary.
"We should focus on successes instead of disagreements," he said in a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, adding that WTO faced problems in resolving disagreements.
Al Tuwaijri was the Kingdom's economy and planning minister from November 2017 until March 2020 and is currently an advisor to the royal court.
Al Tuwaijri, who has also served as a pilot in the Royal Saudi air force, said that the world was going through many changes that had affected trade.
"The future of the world beyond coronavirus is mysterious," the Saudi official said, adding, however that post the pandemic era could bring "great opportunities."  
Al Tuwaijri is one of eight candidates from Mexico to Moldova vying for the top job at the World Trade Organization, seeking to convince its 164 members they can steer the body through intensifying global trade tensions and rising protectionism.
With three of the six previous director-generals coming from Europe and the others from Thailand, Brazil and New Zealand, pressure has been building to choose a leader from Africa.
However, the continent has not united on a single figure, instead producing three candidates, from Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria. The WTO has also never had a female chief. Three in the field are women.
All eight have this week presented themselves to the general council of ambassadors before an unspecified period of campaigning. A "troika" of ambassadors will canvas opinion in the hope the members can unite around one name.
"It's like electing a pope. It's a consensus process," said Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, director of trade think tank ECIPE.
The process normally takes nine months, but the WTO now wants to do it in three.
The job is a tough one. The WTO is set to go into overdrive on a series of disputes, including fishing subsidies, ahead of a biennial conference in 2021. It is also facing pressure to update global trading rules set 25 years ago.
This means finding a consensus on new rules as U.S.-China tensions rise and other countries smart from more than 100 trade barriers erected since the coronavirus outbreak early this year.
"The WTO is not an organization that is really flourishing," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in May. "It is not a job where you can really score."

More news from Europe