WTO: Uncertainty as USA rejects Okonjo-Iweala appointment

Marco Green
October 28, 2020

Three WTO ambassadors, the "troika" charged with finding a successor to Mr Azevedo, had decided that the Nigerian candidate should be the next chief as she had secured wide cross-regional backing.

She polled 104 votes from 164 member countries to defeat South Korea's Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee, at the final stage of the race.

Harry Broadman, a trade negotiator in the Bush and Clinton administrations and managing director of the Berkeley Research Group, tweeted: "The market signal the United States is sending to the rest of the world by being the lone member blocking the needed consensus for appointing the next WTO director-general is disturbing amid a global crisis".

Okonjo-Iweala broke the glass ceiling, emerging as the first African and the first female to attain the position of DG of WTO by emerging as the finalist after eliminating South Korea's current trade minister, Yoo Myung-hee in a fierce battle for the coveted job on Monday night.

The 27 members of the European Union reportedly agreed to support the Nigerian economist.

This means if a country vetoes the majority decision, the selection process could drag on longer.

"One delegation could not support the candidacy of Dr Nogzi and said they would continue (supporting) South Korean minister Yoo", he said.

But that process has been complicated since the WTO Appellate Body - also known as the supreme court of world trade - stopped functioning last December as the United States blocked the appointment of new judges to the panel.

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"That delegation was Unites States of America".

She came into the president's office accompanied by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zubair Dada.

Di troika of WTO Ambassadors wey dey consult to choose di next DG of World Trade Organization [WT0] hope to get agreement alias consensus on a new DG wen General Council meet on Monday 9 November, 2020. Predecessor Roberto Azevedo, a Brazilian, stepped down with a year left in his term as WTO reforms stalled.

"That decision can only be taken by the General Council", he said.

The World Bank veteran described herself as a reformer and said she has strong political and negotiation skills.

Okonjo-Iweala's experience as chair of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, a Geneva-based public-private partnership aimed at increasing access to immunization in poor countries, will help guide one of her first tasks: facilitating a trade mechanism for COVID-19 vaccines.

The global trade body has also faced relentless attacks from Washington, which has crippled the WTO dispute settlement appeal system and threatened to leave the organisation altogether.

"WTO reforms go tough but I don handle hard reform before plus including di reform of how kontris dey trade".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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