WITH the mixed successes of 2012 - South African wines achieving record high exports, as well as South Africa becoming China’s third-largest iron ore supplier, and the Kagiso Purchasing Managers' Index ending down in December along with South Africa’s trade conditions as a whole - the successor to Pascal Lamy as the director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is something all South Africans (and Africans) should follow.
One might feel that the selection is irrelevant, but consider that the director general of the WTO has never been an African and appointing one now, after the recent spurt of global economic troubles, might just help many African countries.
Take Ethiopia, which is hoping to be a full WTO member by 2014, as an example.
It will gain not only from joining the international body - which promotes international trade and economic development by reducing tariffs and other restrictions - but might also do so through favourable trade policies and regulations.
The nomination period closed on December 31 2012 with two of the nine nominated successors coming from Africa: Alan John Kwadwo Kyerematen from Ghana and Amina C Mohamed from Kenya.
The next step in the selection process is for the candidates to present themselves to the membership at a formal general council meeting that will be held from January 29-31. After this, the selection process concludes with a consensus decision by the general council no later than May 31 2013.
Which of two worthy candidates deserves your support?
So who should we be backing: Kyerematen from Ghana or Mohamed from Kenya? Well, Kyerematen has an extensive and distinguished record in international trade, international public policy, enterprise development, politics and diplomacy in the both the public and private sectors.
In the public domain, Kyerematen has been a cabinet minister, ambassador and negotiator, and an international public servant; in the private sector he has been a senior corporate executive.
Amina Mohamed has had a distinguished career in both public and foreign service, covering a broad spectrum of domestic and international assignments.
She has had a distinguished diplomatic career and rose through the ranks to become ambassador/permanent representative, permanent mission to the Republic of Kenya at Geneva.
As such, she represented Kenya in the WTO which gives her a profound knowledge of the organization, along with strong managerial skills.
From their respective biographies, each candidate appears well suited to the position. However, if one thing sets them apart, I see it as Kyerematen’s background in not only international trade but international public policy as well.
Regardless of who wins the vote, the developing world has an 88.9% chance of a somewhat favourable outcome because with one exception, the list of nine is made up of nominees from countries self-designated as “developing”.
*Geoffrey Chapman is a guest columnist and trade policy expert at the SABS. Views expressed are his own.
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