Mexico has nominated a former minister who led the country's negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement to take over the helm of the World Trade Organization, the WTO said Saturday.

Herminio Blanco Mendoza is a 62-year-old economist who served as Mexico's chief NAFTA negotiator from 1990-93, and as its trade and industry minister from 1994 to 2000.

He also led Mexico's participation in the Uruguay round of talks that led to the creation of the WTO in 1995.

His name is the seventh to be tossed into the hat to replace the current WTO chief, Frenchman Pascal Lamy, who will step down when his second term expires on August 31.

Observers say the next director general will most likely not be a European or an American and all but one of the current candidates are from developing countries.

Three of the seven are women: Costa Rican Foreign Trade Minister Anabel Gonzales, Indonesia's former trade minister Mari Pangestu and Kenya's Amina Mohamed, who has held a number of high-level UN positions.

New Zealand has nominated its Trade Minister Tim Groser, while Ghana and Jordan have nominated their former trade ministers Alan John Kwadwo Kyerematen and Ahmad Hindawi.

The WTO's 158 member countries have until December 31 to submit candidates for the post, and the body will make its decision known by May 31.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]