Saudi candidate through to next round of WTO race

Tuwaijri is among three women and one other man bidding to become the next director-general of the WTO. (File/AFP)
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Updated 18 September 2020

Saudi candidate through to next round of WTO race

  • Tuwaijri is among three women and one other man bidding to become the next director-general of the WTO
  • The other remaining candidates are from Kenya, Nigeria, South Korea, and the UK

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s candidate Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri has advanced to the second round of the leadership selection process, the Geneva-based World Trade Organization (WTO) said on Friday.
Tuwaijri is among three women and one other man bidding to become the next director-general of the WTO.

The remaining candidates are Kenyan minister, Amina Mohamed, former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee and British ex-minister, Liam Fox.

Kusay Alkhunaizi, a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) expert, said that the contest for the next phase of the WTO presidency process would be limited to candidates from Britain, South Korea, Kenya, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.

Candidates from Mexico, Egypt, and Moldova stepped out of the race at the end of the first voting round.

The second-round results will depend largely on the lobbying efforts of the candidates and on the proposed program as voters weigh the plans of each contender during this critical period for WTO due to the COVID-19 crisis and trade tensions between the US and China.

Alkhunaizi said that Al-Tuwaijri has moved to the second stage along with four other candidates.

Al-Tuwaijri worked in the private sector as a distinguished international banker, in the public sector as the minister of economy and planning, and at the Royal Court. He was engaged in the nationwide economic transformation (Vision 2030) for the Saudi economy, the largest in the Middle East.

Alkhunaizi said that the challenges faced by candidates were huge and this round of elections was the most sensitive in the life of the WTO. Aside from COVID-19 and trade tensions, technology taxation and equity of trade between nations were some of the bigger challenges.

When Al-Tuwaijri gave his initial candidate press conference in July, there was a telling moment when he described the need to stabilize the WTO. As he spoke, he gripped his hands together as if pulling back on a joystick.

Al-Tuwaijri never directly referred to his early career as a fighter pilot, but it was clear from the language that he used and the analogies he drew that it was a formative experience and has informed his thinking in his subsequent career in business and government.

He sees the current crisis in global trade and within the WTO itself as an opportunity for reform. Similarly the backdrop of a global economy desperately trying to right itself in the wake of the coronavirus is a chance to provide the motivation to get things done.

The former fighter pilot, banker and minister of economy and planning sees the current shortcomings of the organization and the rise of global trade disputes as largely a failure of process.

For the 25-year-old body to be effective, Al-Tuwaijri believes that it must deliver on its trade negotiation mandate so that countries do not circumvent it and opt for more belligerent ways of settling disputes.

Al-Tuwaijri highlighted the dangers this trend represents to the world order in his vision for the WTO. He sees growing inequality within and between nations as spurring the rise of nationalism worldwide.


Saudi King praises role of women at W20 summit

Updated 22 October 2020

Saudi King praises role of women at W20 summit

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has praised the exceptional role played by women during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a speech delivered at the end of the W20, the G20 women’s engagement group, on Wednesday, King Salman said: “I would like to express my gratitude to the Women 20 Engagement Group for their remarkable efforts and commitment to deliver their agenda during these unprecedented times caused by the COVID -19 pandemic.”
The Saudi king described women as the source of evolution for any society and said that without empowered women it is difficult to reform societies. 
“Women are the main source of development for any society. Hence, without empowered women, it is almost impossible to implement any societal reforms given that women form half of the societies and they are the ones who raise up generations. Women has proven through history their remarkable role in leading change and in decision making.”
The king noted that Saudi Arabia’s presidency of the G20 has dedicated special attention to discussing policies related to women across different ministerial and working group meetings.