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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the favourite to lead the WTO

The leadership race tells you something about thorny trade issues

Members of the World Trade Organisation (wto) are not known for co-operating with each other. So when in June they began the process of choosing a new director-general, many feared deadlock.

But now, as the process draws to a close, officials are feeling hopeful. Two candidates are still in the running: Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the chairwoman of gavi, a vaccine-finance agency, and a former World Bank official and finance minister; and Yoo Myung-hee, South Korea’s trade minister.

A winner is due to be announced between October 28th and November 7th, and support seems to be coalescing around Ms Okonjo-Iweala.

Yet the contest says more about the discord in the trading system than the harmony.

The candidates themselves did a good job of highlighting various divisions in the course of the selection process (while dutifully noting that only members have the power to resolve them).

Between them they identified a long list of problems: jammed negotiations that have left the wto’s rule book out of date; a broken system of solving disputes; members’ lacklustre commitment to transparency; and a trade war between America and China.

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