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Seoul in last spurt to rally support for trade minister’s bid for WTO leadership

Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee speaks at an event with diplomats in Geneva, Switzerland on Oct. 16. Yonhap
Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee speaks at an event with diplomats in Geneva, Switzerland on Oct. 16. Yonhap

The South Korean government is making last-minute efforts to rally support for Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee’s run for director general of the World Trade Organization, with top officials asking for support from foreign governments. Yoo, a career bureaucrat who has spent most of her 29-year career on trade issues, is running against Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former finance minister.

President Moon Jae-in, who began requesting support for Yoo’s bid from foreign leaders early on, is scheduled to hold a string of telephone conversations with foreign leaders. On Monday he spoke with Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

In the conversation, Moon stressed the importance of free trade and requested the Malaysian prime minister’s support for Yoo, stressing her qualifications.

“As the world economy faces great difficulties, it is important for a leader with the capacity and vision to restore trust in multilateral trade and to protect free trade system by reforming the WTO,” Moon was quoted as saying by Cheong Wa Dae.

“Minister Yoo is the right person to successfully carry out WTO reform, and moderate between the interests of developed and developing nations,” Moon said.

In the run-up to the final decision, scheduled for next week, Moon plans to continue his “telephone diplomacy” in Yoo’s behalf, which began in July.

In the last leg of the race, Moon began a government-wide campaign to support Yoo, holding a strategy meeting Oct. 12.

Following the meeting, top officials including Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun and Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha reached out to foreign leaders and diplomats asking for their support.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Chung has written letters to 27 foreign governments, requesting their support for Yoo, and has scheduled a string of telephone conversations with representatives of foreign governments.

As for the Foreign Ministry, it has asked for support for Yoo at 20 high-level meetings and sent correspondence to some 130 WTO member states.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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