Liam Fox knocked out of race to lead World Trade Organisation

Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee will go head-to-head to become the trade body's first female director-general

Liam Fox
Liam Fox was international trade secretary until last year

Liam Fox is out of the running to lead the World Trade Organisation.

The former international trade secretary was eliminated before the last of three rounds to replace Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down a year earlier than expected at the end of August.

He lost out to Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee as the pool of candidates was whittled down from five to two, sources said.

That means, if the Geneva-based trade body’s 164 members can agree a candidate, the next director-general will be a woman for the first time in its 25-year history.

Once thought to be the frontrunner, Amina Mohamed, the Kenyan culture minister, was dealt a blow on Monday when EU ambassadors agreed not to support her.

Ms Okonjo-Iweala pictured at the World Bank headquarters building in Washington April 9, 2012 Credit: YURI GRIPAS/Reuters

Dr Okonjo-Iweala, the former Nigerian finance minister who was second-in-command at the World Bank and now chairs the board of Gavi, the vaccine alliance backed by the Bill Gates Foundation, has positioned herself as a reformer with experience across development and public health.

Meanwhile Ms Yoo, South Korea’s trade minister, has pitched herself as an experienced operator on trade in challenging times after clinching deals with the US, China and the UK.

Yoo Myung-hee with Liam Fox at the signing of the South Korea-UK trade agreement last year Credit: REX

The last candidate standing will inherit an organisation whose appellate body – its supreme court – has been paralysed since last December, leaving the rules-based international system under threat and commerce itself choked by trade wars and the pandemic.

US President Donald Trump has taken aim at the ailing organisation, pledging to overhaul it to better suit his country’s interests.

The latest results will be announced to member states formally in Geneva on Thursday morning, with the consultation process finally ending after the US presidential election, on Nov 6.