Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Trump White House is the last obstacle to a first African leader of the WTO

 Nigeria’s former minister of finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has already started getting congratulatory messages for becoming the new director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).


As it turns out however, the congratulations on the being the first African and first female WTO head are rather premature.

Despite being widely seen as the front-runner for the role and having won a raft of high-level endorsements—including from the European Union and key stakeholders within WTO itself, Okonjo-Iweala’s potential appointment is currently being vetoed by opposition from the Trump administration.

High-level US trade representatives say the country will not back Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy, citing displeasure with how the selection process has been carried out,  The US stance represents a major complication given decisions at the 164-member global trade body are typically based on a consensus. Okonjo-Iweala’s sole opponent for WTO director-general is South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee, who was the country’s first female trade minister.

With talks expected between member states expected to continue, an appointment for Okonjo-Iweala, who has run a very high-profile campaign for the role, will have to wait until the Nov. 9 when the body’s general council is expected to meet. In the event that the member nations do not achieve a consensus, the selection of a new WTO director-general will be done through a vote as a last resort—a first for the global trade body.

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