U.S. Rejection Plunges WTO Leadership Into Uncertainty

by mcardinal

Madeline Sponsler, FISM News

The World Trade Organization’s bid to elect a new leader was plunged into uncertainty on Wednesday after the United States rejected the Nigerian woman proposed as the global watchdog’s next director-general.

Three WTO ambassadors, charged with finding a successor to Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, had decided that Nigerian former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala should be the next chief as she had secured wide cross-regional backing. The news confirmed what trade sources earlier told Reuters.

Their decision, which awaits WTO members’ approval, caps a more than four-month selection process involving intensive lobbying, which saw her square up against South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee in the final round.

However, the United States announced it does not back Okonjo-Iweala. The decision needs to be approved unanimously  meaning any WTO member could block her appointment.

Many members such as China and the United States had declined to publicly name their preference, although some African, Caribbean, and other states had voiced support for Okonjo-Iweala.

The European Union endorsed Okonjo-Iweala on Oct. 26.

The leadership void was created after outgoing WTO chief Azevedo stepped down a year early in August. Four deputies are currently steering the WTO. Okonjo-Iweala is a 66-year-old former finance minister and World Bank managing director. She would face considerable challenges with rival economies and tensions coming from a coronavirus-induced trade plunge.

Okonjo-Iweala is a development expert, and currently chair of the GAVI vaccine alliance board.  Okonjo-Iweala says the WTO should play a role in helping poorer countries access COVID-19 drugs and vaccines.

Sourced from Reuters

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