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S. Korean trade minister announces bid to become next WTO chief

All News 11:20 June 24, 2020

SEOUL, June 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee on Wednesday announced her bid for the top job of the World Trade Organization (WTO), saying she would make her utmost efforts to reshape the final arbiter in trade disputes if she is elected.

Yoo's bid comes as the WTO is mired in its biggest crisis since it was created in 1995 over growing uncertainties in global rules on trade between nations and fragile collaboration among member nations.

"I will vow to restore the WTO system that faces the biggest crisis since it was launched," Yoo told reporters.

Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee speaks during a videoconference with her Singaporean counterpart, Chan Chun Sing, on June 22, 2020, in this photo provided by the ministry. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Since early this month, the WTO has started its procedure to pick a new head, as Brazil's Roberto Azevedo is set to step down in August, about a year before his term ends.

As Yoo made her bid, she became the third South Korean to run for the top post of the Geneva-based trade body.

Two South Koreans made unsuccessful bids in 1994 and 2012, respectively.

So far, the WTO has received four candidates -- from Egypt, Mexico, Nigeria and Moldova -- according to the ministry.

Yoo, a veteran negotiator in trade talks, was appointed as South Korea's trade minister in February last year.

Yoo has often been referred to as the "devil's advocate" and as a counterpoint to her predecessor, Kim Hyung-chong. Sources said that while Kim takes a more aggressive approach during negotiations, Yoo tends to be more circumspect.

Yoo is fluent in English and served as the presidential office's spokesperson for foreign correspondents.

She was the first woman to become a first-rank staff in the 70-year history of the trade ministry in 2018.
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