Breaking: WTO opens up on Okonjo-Iweala becoming first female D-G

ADEZE OJUKWU with Agency Reports

The Word Trade Organisation (WTO) confirmed Wednesday, that Prof Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s candidate for the office of the Director-General of the organisation, had the best chance at getting a consensus from member states.

The WTO General Council Chair, David Walker reported ‘the results of the consultations to appoint the next #WTODG. Members prepare way forward in selection process.’

After the meeting, WTO spokesperson Keith Rockwell, summed up the announcement by GC Chair Walker on the organization’s official Twitter handle.

‘The candidate that had the best chance of attaining a consensus of the membership is Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria. Consultations on the way fwd will start immediately.’

However, Okonjo-Iweala’s selection may have suffered a set-back, after United States(US) vetoed her bid.

According to Bloomberg reports, the organization’s effort to select a leader and chart a new course for the global trading system suffered a hitch Wednesday as ‘the Trump administration vetoed a bid by front-runner Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is a U.S. citizen, to be the WTO’s next director-general.’

‘Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Dennis Shea said Washington won’t join a consensus to appoint Okonjo-Iweala because the U.S. supports her opponent, South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, according to WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell.’

‘US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has pushed for Yoo even though Okonjo-Iweala gained American citizenship in 2019. Sources close to him say he views Okonjo-Iweala, a longtime top official at the World Bank, as being too close to pro-trade internationalists like Robert Zoellick, a former USTR from the Bush administration, who worked with her, when he was president of the Washington-based bank.

‘The US’s lone resistance to the majority-backed Okonjo-Iweala opens the possibility of months of gridlock over the selection process and more diplomatic friction with trading partners like the European Union.’

‘I’m surprised and disappointed in the U.S. reaction,’ said William Reinsch, a trade official in the Clinton administration and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

‘I had hoped Lighthizer would have more respect for the institution than that.’

‘WTO decisions are made by a consensus of its 164 members, which means a single country, especially the world’s largest economy, can create a stalemate to pressure others. The Geneva-based institution will keep working to reach a consensus ahead of meeting of the General Council tentatively set for November 9,’ it added.

Recall that Prof Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s ex-finance minister had officially won the race, after polling 104 votes from 164 member countries to defeat her South Korean trade minister opponent Yoo Myung-hee, at the final stage of the race.

The former World Bank Executive received massive support from Africa, European Union(EU) and international organizations, due to her high profile record, as an accomplished economist and an international development expert.

Okonjo-Iweala was the country’s finance minister during the tenures of former presidents Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

By this historic feat, Okonjo-Iweala may set another record, as the first African and female, to head the WTO, if her candidature scales through.

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