EU and US split on next world trade chief

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The EU and the US could be headed for a showdown as they are set to back opposing candidates in the race for the next director-general of the WTO.

The EU and the US are set for a clash over the next head of the World Trade Organization (WTO), with the two sides preferring different candidates ahead of the final decision next month.

Bloomberg reports that European nations have thrown their backing behind former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, whereas the US is said to favor former South Korean trade envoy Yoo Myung-hee.

Because the post of director-general requires consensus rather than a majority vote of the organization's 164 members, a strong objection from a single country could block either of the candidates.

Japan has also signaled unease with Ms Yoo's candidacy, while China, another of the WTO's most influential members, has yet to publicly express a preference.

However, the uncertainty of the upcoming US election could further complicate the process.

Americans go to the polls on November 3rd to decide between incumbent Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Mr Trump has previously expressed skepticism about the role of the WTO, with aides to the president signaling he will push to reshape the body's focus to have a narrower scope for resolving trade disputes if he wins a second term.

While he trails Mr Biden by around ten percentage points in national polls, the race is set to be tighter in several of the key swing states that will determine the election, and therefore the US' future trade policy.

Rufus Yerxa, former deputy director-general of the WTO, told Bloomberg: "We shouldn't dismiss the possibility that this could end in a deadlock and that an outcome will have to wait for the US election and what the next administration decides to do."