July 15, 2020 / 1:39 PM / a month ago

Mexico's candidate for WTO chief post urges hasty vetting of next leader amid 'deep crisis'

GENEVA, July 15 (Reuters) - Mexico’s candidate to head the World Trade Organization urged members to quickly decide who will lead the Geneva-based organization and address a “deep crisis” as it began its process of vetting candidates on Wednesday.

Nominations for candidates from eight countries have been submitted, and include three women, three African candidates and a former Saudi air force pilot, to replace Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo, who will step down a year early at the end of August.

“This needs to be done as quick as possible,” said Jesus Seade, a senior trade official in Mexico’s government, describing the trade watchdog as being in “deep crisis.”

Seade also referred to a suggestion that a final decision on the next chief should be delayed until after the U.S. presidential election in November and rebuffed the idea.

Under U.S. President Donald Trump, Washington has urged reform of the WTO, and blocked appointments to its top court. However, Seade said he thought criticism of the body was shared across the political spectrum in Washington.

“Precisely for that reason I think the election should not create an obsession to make a decision before and after - we should make that decision as soon as possible,” he added, saying the body needs to address reform and prepared for a delayed biennial conference in 2021.

This phase of the race kicks off two months of campaigning followed by a final decision by consensus. The new chief will have to steer the body through intensifying global trade tensions and rising protectionism.

Candidates from Nigeria and Egypt will present to WTO members and the press later on Wednesday. For a full list of candidates, see here: (Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniel in Benington; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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