SINGAPORE: Mr Daren Tang is set to be the new director-general of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) after winning a vote in Geneva on Wednesday (Mar 4).
"This is the first time a Singaporean has been nominated for the leadership position of a UN Agency," said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as he congratulated Mr Tang in a post on Facebook.
Mr Tang, the chief executive of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), was among the six in the race for the top job.
The other candidates were from China, Colombia, Ghana, Kazakhstan and Peru.
WIPO's coordination committee, which comprises 83 member states, held two rounds of voting.
Kazakhstan’s candidate withdrew her candidacy ahead of the first round of voting. After the first round, the candidate from Peru had the least votes and was eliminated.
Two other candidates – from Colombia and Ghana – withdrew their candidatures before the second round of voting.
Mr Tang prevailed in the second and final round of voting with 55 votes ahead of China's Wang Binying, who had 28 votes.
The WIPO general assembly will make the final confirmation by early May.
Speaking from Geneva, Mr Tang said: “I am humbled and honoured by the nomination of the WIPO Coordination Committee as the DG-nominee ... There were many well-qualified candidates who contested through a fair, open and transparent process."
Set up in 1967, WIPO has 193 member states and oversees 26 international treaties related to the protection of intellectual property.
The current director-general of WIPO, Australian Francis Gurry, has held the position since 2008, overseeing the organisation across two six-year terms.
Under Mr Gurry, WIPO has overseen an explosion in patent filings and has begun preliminary talks on whether artificial intelligence, or machines, can be inventors.
His current term ends on Sep 30, after which Mr Tang is set to take over.
Mr Tang, 48, joined IPOS, a statutory board under the Ministry of Law, as deputy chief executive in 2012 and became chief executive three years later.
Prior to that, he was a Senior State Counsel with the Attorney-General's Chambers’ international affairs division from 2003 to 2012, where he was part of Singapore’s legal team in the dispute with Malaysia over the sovereignty of Pedra Branca.
Mr Tang was also involved in the United States-Singapore free trade agreement as lead negotiator and legal counsel, during his time at the Ministry of Trade and Industry between 2001 and 2003.
More recently, he led IP negotiations for Singapore in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the European Union-Singapore free trade agreement.
The Singaporean also currently chairs the standing committee on copyright and related rights at WIPO.
His experience and familiarity with the WIPO community were attributes mentioned by Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in his letter to WIPO’s coordination committee on Nov 6 to nominate Mr Tang.
“His international experience in bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations have delivered regional and international cooperation programmes that have benefited the IP community,” he wrote.
“With his understanding of how IP can be used to support socio-economic development and his ability to forge consensus, Mr Tang possesses the qualities to strengthen and further the good work of WIPO and its members.”
Under Mr Tang’s tenure, IPOS was transformed from “a regulator into an innovation agency with IP expertise and networks”, added Dr Balakrishnan – a point echoed by Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo issued a statement congratulating Mr Tang on his nomination, and said the US looked forward to working with him to safeguard intellectual property.
"Mr Tang is an effective advocate for protecting intellectual property, a vocal proponent of transparency and institutional integrity, and a leader who can unify WIPO member states by forging consensus on difficult issues," Mr Pompeo said.