As nominations for WTO top-job end, Kenya challenges AU-backed Kyerematen’s bid

Alan Kyerematen says ready for the job
Alan Kyerematen says ready for the job

The search for who succeeds Pascal Lamy, the current Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has begun as deadline for nominations for the post closed December 31, 2012.

Nine countries nominated their nationals for the post which becomes vacant next year when Lamy steps down.

Ghana was the first country to make a nomination. The country nominated former Trade Minister,  Alan Kwadwo John Kyerematen.

Mr Alan Kyerematen has received the backing of the 54-member African Union (AU), but in an interesting twist, Kenya has nominated its national, international trade diplomat, Ms Amina Mohamed to vie for the WTO post.

Many thought Africa would have presented a sole candidate to run for the position but the move by Kenya confirms an early disagreement which arose when the AU at a meeting gave its support for Kyerematen’s nomination. The meeting took place in Addis Ababa in July 2012 which according to Reuters, was attended by current WTO boss, Pascal Lamy.

The AU’s approval of Kyerematen was reported by Reuters citing sources saying that it was part of a deal to allow Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a South African Minister and ex-wife of President Jacob Zuma, to win the election to chair the AU.

“So there was this agreement to nominate this Ghanaian minister as the candidate from Africa,” one WTO diplomat told the news wire. “From what I’ve heard, as soon as the meeting was over, others said ‘No way’.”

“One would have expected that the AU would have looked at the totality of African candidates and who would have been best to build a candidature around,” Reuters quoted a source related to the matter as saying.

“I’m not even sure if some members of the AU candidature committee are members of the WTO,” the source added.

But another Geneva-based trade official was quoted as saying “If he [Keyerematen] gets 54 African countries to start in his corner, then that’s big.”

The AU’s backing of Kyerematen was a result of his immense contribution to the promotion of trade in Africa. Kyerematen currently serves as trade advisor at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He also heads the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC), a centre created by the ECA in June 2003 with the main objective of strengthening the human and institutional capacities of African governments to formulate and implement sound trade policies and participate more effectively in trade negotiations at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.

Aside Kenya’s candidate, Mr Kyerematen faces stiff competition from Brazil, Mexico, Jordan, Indonesia, Costa Rica, South Korea and New Zealand candidates.

But as a politician and a diplomat, Mr Kyerematen said he is most suited for the job.

The WTO said the appointment process of the Director-General is guided by the best interests of the Organization, respect for the dignity of the candidates and the members nominating them, and by full transparency and inclusiveness at all stages, building on the best practices established over the past years with regard to internal transparency and participation of all Members.

It believes that the overriding objective of members in the process shall be to reach decisions by consensus.

The process leading up to the decision by the General Council to appoint a Director-General shall be conducted by the Chair of the General Council in consultation with members and in accordance with the procedures set out herein.

According to a WTO document, the appointment process starts nine months prior to the expiry of the term of the incumbent Director-General with a notification from the Chair to the General Council.

The candidates nominated shall then have three months to make themselves known to members and to engage in discussions on the pertinent issues facing the Organization.

A formal General Council meeting will be held on January 29, 2013 where candidates will present themselves to the membership for the final selection.

The remaining two months prior to the conclusion of this process shall be devoted to selecting and appointing one of the candidates.
The selection process will conclude with a decision by the General Council no later than May 31, 2013, the WTO said.

For a person’s qualifications for the WTO job, the candidate should, in broad terms, have extensive experience in international relations, encompassing economic, trade and/or political experience.

He or she is also expected to have a firm commitment to the work and objectives of the WTO, having proven leadership and managerial ability and demonstrated communications skills.

By Ekow Quandzie

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