Okonjo-Iweala is Positive She’d be Named WTO’s First African Director-General Despite US Opposition
Nigeria’s ex-finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has expressed positivity in her race to becoming the first African and the first woman to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO) despite recent setback.
Okonjo-Iweala, who has garnered the largest and broadest support from the WTO member countries such as the European Union, African Union, Caribbean, Asia and other blocs, was accelerating to be named the next director-general of the organization until the United States slammed the brake on her race.
The Office of the US Trade Representative, which advises President Donald Trump on trade policy, had declared support for Okonjo-Iweala’s opponent, South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee, describing her as someone who has “distinguished herself” as a trade expert.
In a statement released by the US Office mid-week, it said the WTO “must be led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field”.
“This is a very difficult time for the WTO and international trade. There have been no multilateral tariff negotiations in 25 years, the dispute settlement system has gotten out of control, and too few members fulfill basic transparency obligations. The WTO is badly in need of major reform,” the statement added.
It is also believed that China’s support of Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy may be part of the reasons the US is backing Myung-hee, as the US-China trade war deepens.
Although the WTO Council confirmed on Wednesday that Okonjo-Iweala is the most likely candidate to occupy the seat, the US stance is critical to that decision and it may influence the final outcome of the process.
However, in a Twitter post on Thursday, Okonjo-Iweala expressed optimism in the race, saying “We’re keeping the positivity going!”.
Happy for the success & continued progress of our @wto DG bid. Very humbled to be declared the candidate with the largest, broadest support among members & most likely to attract consensus. We move on to the next step on Nov 9, despite hiccups. We're keeping the positivity going!
— Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (@NOIweala) October 29, 2020
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