By Takao Harakawa
The government is sizing up the eight candidates for the next World Trade Organization (WTO) director general, including South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee, looking to see which one “is capable of actively contributing to the maintenance and enhancement of the multilateral trade system and ensuring the WTO’s transparency and accountability,” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said.
Major countries, including Japan, are wary about China’s growing influence at international organizations, as that nation has taken the top posts at four of the United Nations’ 15 specialized organizations. Whether the home country of a candidate has a close relationship with China has become an unofficial factor for selecting top officers, as witnessed by the case of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is criticized for being pro-China.
Some expect that former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Kenyan Sports and Culture Minister Amina Mohamed, two women, will be pivotal players in the upcoming election for WTO director general. A senior Foreign Ministry official said, “Nigeria can probably keep an appropriate distance with China.” Taking into account candidates’ policy speeches, the government intends to decide which candidate to select in coordination with major countries, including the U.S. (Abridged)