The World Trade Organization (WTO) said on Thursday South Korea's trade minister and a Harvard-trained former Nigerian finance minister were in running to become the next director-general of the Geneva-based body, ensuring a woman in the top job for the first time.
WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell announced that a selection committee, after meeting in recent weeks with five remaining candidates, picked Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria and Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea qualified for the final round in a race expected to end in the coming weeks.
The General Council, made up of envoys from the 164-member body, eliminated Amina Mohamed, a former trade minister from Kenya; Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri, a Saudi former economy minister, and Britain's former International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.
A previous round cut the list of candidates from eight to five.
The winner is expected to be announced no later than early November.
The previous WTO director-general, Roberto Azevedo of Brazil, 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 August 31.
Azevedo's seven-year tenure was marked by intense pressure from US President Donald Trump, who repeatedly accused the WTO of "unfair" treatment of the US 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 a national from Africa as its leader.