LONDON: If current global trade relations appear something of an ongoing dogfight, then maybe a former fighter pilot is just the man for the job.
Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri has an unusual background among the eight candidates in the running for the top job at the World Trade Organization.
Before joining the corporate world as a banker, he was a fighter pilot for the Saudi Air Force.
That unique experience is one of the reasons he has emerged as a front-runner for the high profile position, says Forbes magazine. He faces competition from candidates from Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Mexico, Moldova, and South Korea.
The search to find a successor to Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo, who step downs a year early at the end of August, has become increasingly urgent as global trade is buffeted by the coronanvirus pandemic that has made already poor trade relations between the world’s two largest economies, so much worse.
Al-Tuwaijri’s journey from cockpit to boardroom took in roles that included CEO of HSBC Middle East and earlier stints at J.P Morgan Saudi Arabia and Saudi British Bank.
He is currently an adviser to the Saudi Royal Court and was previously the Kingdom’s Minister of Economy and Planning, the key government portfolio for delivering the ambitious Vision 2030, a blueprint for social and economic reform aimed at modernizing the country and reducing its reliance on hydrocarbon revenues.
He has also served on the board of the Saudi Center for International Strategic Partnerships, a member of the Supreme Committee for Hydrocarbons Affairs, a member of the National Committee for Digital Transformation since 2018, a member of the High Committee for Atomic Energy, and chairman of the Supervisory Committee for the Kingdom’s participation in Expo 2020 Dubai.
As one of the Kingdom’s key policy makers he also serves on a number of other committees overseeing themes that range from artificial intelligence to privatization.
He also chairs several key government departments and is a Saudi Aramco board member.
Earlier this month, the eight candidates nominated for the post of WTO Director-General met with members of the organization’s general council to give a brief presentation which included their vision for the WTO.
The current phase of the selection process in which the candidates “make themselves known to members” will end on Sept. 07, according to the WTO website. The third phase of the selection process will then begin and is expected to take no longer than two months.