Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is now a step closer to being crowned as Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Bloomberg reports that members of the WTO have selected two final candidates -- Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee -- to advance to the final round in the race to lead the Geneva-based trade body.

By advancing two women to the final round of the selection process, the WTO will likely have the first female director general in its 25-year history.

Okonjo-Iweala served two stints as Nigeria’s finance minister and one term as foreign affairs minister.

She has garnered experience working at international governance bodies as a former managing director of the World Bank and as a chairman at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.

Yoo is South Korea’s trade minister. During her 25-year career in government, she has helped expand her country’s trade network through bilateral accords with China, the U.K. and the U.S.

South Korea Deputy Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee Photographer: Jean Chung/Bloomberg
South Korea Deputy Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee Photographer: Jean Chung/Bloomberg

WTO General Council Chairman David Walker plans to formally announce the results to the institution’s delegates on Thursday morning in Geneva.

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“They’re both very well qualified, it’s going to be a fight,” said William Reinsch, a trade official in the Clinton administration and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Reinsch adds that the top challenge will be “restoring the organization to full strength and viability, and restoring its reputation. You need members to have confidence that the WTO is capable of solving problems. I think right now that confidence is eroded."

The third and final phase of the consultation process will begin later this month and run until November 6.

Thereafter, the WTO will name a winner by consensus.

President Muhammadu Buhari. [Twitter/@NigeriaGov]
President Muhammadu Buhari. [Twitter/@NigeriaGov]

President Muhammadu Buhari nominated Okonjo-Iweala, 66, for the position on June 5, 2020.

The former Nigeria minister has also received the backing of regional body ECOWAS.

The new boss of the WTO will be tasked with overseeing much needed reforms, steer the trading world through a post-COVID recession, clinch multilateral deals, manage rising protectionism and navigate the trade war between China and the United States.

Former WTO boss Roberto Azevêdo informed members on May 14 that he would be stepping down from his post, one year before the expiry of his mandate. He subsequently left office on August 31.