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South Korea trade official in the running for top WTO position

South Korean trade official Yoo Myung-hee is one of five candidates vying for the position of director-general at the World Trade Organization. File Photo by Martial Trezzini/EPA-EFE
South Korean trade official Yoo Myung-hee is one of five candidates vying for the position of director-general at the World Trade Organization. File Photo by Martial Trezzini/EPA-EFE

Sept. 18 (UPI) -- South Korea's minister for trade has advanced to the second round of elections in the World Trade Organization's search for its next chief.

Yoo Myung-hee is among five candidates who are being considered for the top WTO job, South Korean newspaper Seoul Shinmun reported Friday. Current WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo has said he intends to submit an early resignation.

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Yoo is competing against British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, a Brexit advocate, former Saudi Economy Minister Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri, Kenyan Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed and Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former minister of finance. Two candidates will be selected from the second round.

The race for the final round among the five candidates is to begin Thursday and ends Oct. 6. The new director-general is expected to be determined in early November.

Yoo has said she is qualified for the job.

"We need a new director general who can deliver successful outcomes," Yoo recently told CNN. "And throughout my career, I have had to negotiate, finalize and implement numerous trade deals."

A South Korean trade ministry official told Seoul Shinmun Yoo can offer South Korea's experience and expertise with COVID-19, a policy that is referred to as "K-prevention" in the country.

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The next WTO director-general will face a number of serious issues that have impacted the global economy. Commerce has been affected by the ongoing trade war between the United States and China and the coronavirus. U.S. President Donald Trump has also warned he will boycott the WTO because international body is not sufficiently addressing alleged Chinese trade violations.

Japan offered a muted response on Friday to the WTO elections, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said Japan will help select the most suitable candidate. Tokyo and Seoul have been at odds over a South Korean request for a WTO inquiry into a Japanese export control measure that went into effect in 2019.

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