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Eight candidates to compete for top WTO post

  • July 10, 2020
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All national dailies reported that a total of eight candidates, including a senior South Korean trade official, will be vying for the post of WTO director general, as nominations closed on Wednesday. The dailies said the race is of crucial significance given that the global trade watchdog has been in disarray following the rise in protectionism triggered by U.S.-China trade friction and the coronavirus pandemic.


As for which candidate Japan intends to support, Foreign Minister Motegi has said he or she must “make proactive contributions to maintaining and enhancing the multilateral trade system and be accountable for ensuring institutional transparency.” Sankei speculated that as Western countries are wary about growing Chinese presence at multiple international organizations, Japan is likely to take a coordinated approach with their governments for the election of a new WTO leader while taking into account the candidates’ connections with Beijing.


Mainichi claimed that the GOJ is reluctant to support South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee in view of the ongoing bilateral disputes over export controls and compensation for former requisitioned workers. Tokyo reportedly does not want the ROK to increase its diplomatic presence in the international arena. Nikkei noted that as the South Korean candidate took the lead in the Moon administration in referring to the WTO the Japan-ROK dispute over export controls, Tokyo is afraid that if she is elected, the trade body may rule against Tokyo over the matter.


Mainichi and Sankei also highlighted the South Korean media coverage of Japan’s position on the WTO race, noting they have reported that Tokyo appears to be determined to block Yoo’s candidacy out of fear that the country may lose its leading presence in East Asia. The ROK outlets reportedly took issue with Trade Minister Kajiyama’s comment on Thursday that Japan will be “heavily involved in the selection process,” interpreting it as meaning that Tokyo will be trying to elect somebody who is sympathetic to Japan’s argument in the Japan-ROK trade conflict.

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