Expert: Liam Fox is only still in WTO leadership race because he’s no threat to others

The Europeans wanted the strongest rivals out of the competition, Bill Reinsch said.

A expert on the World Trade Organisation’s Director-General race has said that Liam Fox only made it through to the second round of voting because the supporters of other candidates don’t see him as a threat.

The former trade minister was one of eight candidates to lead the body which sets the world’s trade rules. On 19 September, after the WTO’s member countries had given their preferences, it was announced that Fox had unexpectedly made the final five.

Bill Reinsch used to be president of the National Foreign Trade Council and was in Bill Clinton’s government. On the Trade Guys podcast, he was asked why Fox had gained an “unexpected toehold” in the race by making it to the last five candidates.

Reinsch replied: “The gossip was that the Europeans in particular would like to see a woman get it, an African women get it, and their tactic was to make sure that the male candidates who went forward were the weaker ones.”

According to Reinsch, this is the reason why the highly-respected male candidate from Mexico, Jesus Seade, went out while Liam Fox and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al-Tuwajiri went through.

The other three candidates still in the race are all women – Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee, Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Kenya’s Amina Mohamed. There has never been a female or an African leader of the WTO.

Explaining, Reinsch said: “It’s on the theory that they won’t make the next round and we’ll end up choosing between the women. I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people felt that Seade was probably the strongest male candidate and he got thrown under the bus.”

“The two candidates which everyone expected to be blocked, the Saudi candidate (by everyone who is mad at Saudi Arabia) and the British candidate (by many of the European countries who are mad about Brexit), they made it through.”

Reinsch did add that Fox has some support in Europe and that it’s more of a “mixed bag” than widely thought.

In the next round of voting, countries have to vote for the final two candidates. “My guess is that the Saudi and Fox will end up being winnowed out,” said Reinsch.

Liam Fox has previously been criticised for appearing to legitimise climate change denial and for sharing a panel with an oil executive who was on trial for alleged corruption.

The US website Axios has also revealed that Fox speaks regularly to Donald Trump’s controversial then national security adviser John Bolton.

Joe Lo is a co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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