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Egyptian, Mexican, Moldovan exit in race for top post at WTO

GENEVA (AP) — World Trade Organization member countries on Friday trimmed a list of candidates vying to become the next director-general from eight to five. They ejected applicants from Egypt, Mexico and Moldova who had been hoping to lead a trade body that has become a lightning rod of criticism for the Trump administration.

The WTO’s General Council, made up of ambassadors from the 164-member Geneva organization, ruled out Jesus Seade Kuri of Mexico, Tudor Ulianovschi of Moldova and Hamid Mamdouh of Egypt. A second round begins Thursday to cut the list from five to two, sometime in October. The winner is expected to be announced no later than early November.

The three women and two men still in the running are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who has been Nigeria’s finance minister and spent 25 years at the World Bank; Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea, a minister for trade; Amina Mohamed, a former foreign affairs and trade minister for Kenya; Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri, a Saudi former economy minister and longtime banker, and British former International Trade Secretary and Brexit proponent Liam Fox.

The previous WTO director-general, Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo, made a surprise announcement in May that he would leave the job a year early, citing a “personal decision.” He left without a successor on Aug. 31.

Azevedo’s seven-year tenure was marked by intense pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump, who repeatedly accused the WTO of “unfair” treatment of the U.S. and started a trade war with China in defiance of the WTO system.

The WTO, which was created in 1995 out of the former General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, has never had a woman director-general or national from Africa as its leader.

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