By Tom Miles
GENEVA (Reuters) - Ghana has put forward the first official candidate to succeed Pascal Lamy as head of the World Trade Organization (WTO), nominating its former Trade Minister Alan John Kwadwo Kyerematen.
Kyerematen's bid to take over after Lamy's second term expires on August 31. was widely expected after he won the backing of the African Union earlier this year.
However, that endorsement was done so quietly that some diplomats have suggested he might face a challenge from another African nation belonging to the 157-member trade body.
Applications must be submitted by the end of the year, in time for a three-month campaigning period and for a winner to emerge by the end of May.
Many trade diplomats think the job should go to an African, Latin American or Caribbean candidate, since all but one head of the 17-year-old WTO have been from developed countries. The exception was Thailand's Supachai Panitchpakdi.
But Lamy has said there was no system of rotating the job between countries and regions and said his successor, chosen by consensus, should be picked on the basis of competence alone.
Other names in the frame are New Zealand's Trade Minister Tim Groser, Brazil's Ambassador to the WTO Roberto Azevedo, Costa Rica's Trade Minister Anabel Gonzalez and South African Trade Minister Rob Davies.
The head of Mexico's competition commission Eduardo Perez Motta, a former ambassador to the WTO, told Reuters in September that he would enter the race if his name was put forward.
Former Jordanian Trade Minister Ahmad Al Hindawi will also be nominated, Jordanian media reported earlier this month.
The office of Nigeria's Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who failed in a bid to head the World Bank, headed off rumors by saying in September that she had not expressed interest and was not a candidate.
The only WTO member to rule itself out of the race so far is the European Union.
"Obviously this time it will not be somebody from Europe, so we will have to see what the candidatures are," European Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht told reporters last week during a visit to Geneva.
(Editing by Louise Ireland)