Saudi Arabia’s WTO Candidate Through To Next Round


By Hebshi Alshammari

Saudi Arabia’s candidate Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri has advanced to the second round of the leadership selection process, the Geneva-based World Trade Organization (WTO) said on Friday.

Tuwaijri is among three women and one other man bidding to become the next director-general of the WTO.

The remaining candidates are Kenyan minister, Amina Mohamed, former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee and British ex-minister, Liam Fox.

Kusay Alkhunaizi, a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) expert, said that the contest for the next phase of the WTO presidency process would be limited to candidates from Britain, South Korea, Kenya, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.

Candidates from Mexico, Egypt, and Moldova stepped out of the race at the end of the first voting round.

The second-round results will depend largely on the lobbying efforts of the candidates and on the proposed program as voters weigh the plans of each contender during this critical period for WTO due to the COVID-19 crisis and trade tensions between the US and China.

Alkhunaizi said that Al-Tuwaijri has moved to the second stage along with four other candidates.

Al-Tuwaijri worked in the private sector as a distinguished international banker, in the public sector as the minister of economy and planning, and at the Royal Court. He was engaged in the nationwide economic transformation (Vision 2030) for the Saudi economy, the largest in the Middle East.

Alkhunaizi said that the challenges faced by candidates were huge and this round of elections was the most sensitive in the life of the WTO. Aside from COVID-19 and trade tensions, technology taxation and equity of trade between nations were some of the bigger challenges.

When Al-Tuwaijri gave his initial candidate press conference in July, there was a telling moment when he described the need to stabilize the WTO. As he spoke, he gripped his hands together as if pulling back on a joystick.

Al-Tuwaijri never directly referred to his early career as a fighter pilot, but it was clear from the language that he used and the analogies he drew that it was a formative experience and has informed his thinking in his subsequent career in business and government.

He sees the current crisis in global trade and within the WTO itself as an opportunity for reform. Similarly the backdrop of a global economy desperately trying to right itself in the wake of the coronavirus is a chance to provide the motivation to get things done.

The former fighter pilot, banker and minister of economy and planning sees the current shortcomings of the organization and the rise of global trade disputes as largely a failure of process.

For the 25-year-old body to be effective, Al-Tuwaijri believes that it must deliver on its trade negotiation mandate so that countries do not circumvent it and opt for more belligerent ways of settling disputes.

Al-Tuwaijri highlighted the dangers this trend represents to the world order in his vision for the WTO. He sees growing inequality within and between nations as spurring the rise of nationalism worldwide.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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