Nigerians were happy when news broke that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, ex-minister of finance, has been elected World Trade Organisation (WTO) DG.
However, just like what happened to Akinwumi Adesina when he was gunning for a second term as President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United States of America which backs South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee has again become a stumbling block to the election of Okonjo-Iweala.
Already, a WTO nominations committee has recommended Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the group’s 164 members. If she beats the US hurdle, she would be the first woman and first African to lead the WTO.
In a statement critical of the WTO, the Office of the US Trade Representative, which advises President Donald Trump on trade policy, said the organisation “must be led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field”.
Ms Yoo had “distinguished herself” as a trade expert and “has all the skills necessary to be an effective leader of the organisation”, the statement said.
It added: “This is a very difficult time for the WTO and international trade. There have been no multilateral tariff negotiations in 25 years, the dispute settlement system has gotten out of control, and too few members fulfill basic transparency obligations. The WTO is badly in need of major reform.”
The statement did not mention Okonjo-Iweala.
Earlier on Wednesday, after a WTO delegates meeting to discuss the appointment, spokesman Keith Rockwell said just one member country did not support Okonjo-Iweala.
“All of the delegations that expressed their views today expressed very strong support for the process… for the outcome. Except for one,” he said.
The WTO has now called a meeting for 9 November – after the US presidential election – to discuss the issue. US opposition does not mean Nkonjo-Iweala cannot be appointed, but Washington could nevertheless wield considerable influence over the final decision.