Okonjo-Iweala on Verge of Becoming WTO DG as Contender ‘Quits’
By Adedapo Adesanya
The candidate from South Korea, Ms Yoo Myung-hee, has reportedly dropped from the race for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General position.
This new development, although not yet confirmed nor disproved by the global trade body, will pave the way for Nigeria’s candidate, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to be confirmed as the head of the organisation.
Washington Trade Daily (WTD) quoted people familiar with the development to have disclosed that South Korea was expected to announce its decision to withdraw Ms Myung-hee in the coming days to enable the WTO’s General Council appoint Mrs Okonjo-Iweala.
The Washington-based news medium further stated that South Korea had already conveyed its decision to the United States, which had been insisting on the selection of Ms Myung-hee.
Part of the reason for the position adopted by the United States against Mrs Okonjo-Iweala is that she is perceived to be close to the Democratic Party, according to the WTD.
The WTO had scheduled a General Council meeting for November 9, which was postponed after the Geneva Canton imposed new restrictions on meetings in the face of the sudden surge in COVID-19 cases.
Most of the WTO meetings are largely being held virtually through internet platforms, but in order to take decisions by the General Council, a quorum of 82 members must be present at the meeting.
A General Council meeting has been scheduled to take place on December 17, but it is not clear whether the meeting can take place if the current restrictions continue next month.
The global trade body is set to be led by a woman for the first time following the emergence of two female candidates and will follow Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down as WTO director-general in August, a year ahead of schedule.
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, 66, who served as Nigeria’s first female finance and foreign minister and had a 25-year career as a development economist at the World Bank, said it would be good if WTO could also boast of its first African leader.
She is considered the favourite for the job following endorsements from the African Union, the European Union, and other distinguished personalities. Her emergence was earlier delayed by the United States’ failure to support a consensus.