WTO-DG: Reasons US Opposed Okonjo-Iweala’s Appointment As New WTO Chief
The World Trade Organisation’s effort to select by consensus Nigeria’s former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as its next director-general hit a brick wall on Wednesday following opposition from the United States.
Deputy US Trade Representative Dennis Shea said Washington won’t join a consensus to appoint Mrs Okonjo-Iweala because the US supported her opponent South Korean trade minister, Yoo Myung-hee, according to WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell.
According to Bloomberg, US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer had pushed for Yoo even though Okonjo-Iweala gained American citizenship in 2019.
Sources close to him told Bloomberg that he viewed Okonjo-Iweala, a longtime top official at the World Bank, as being too close to pro-trade internationalists like Robert Zoellick, a former USTR from the Bush administration, who worked with her when he was president of the Washington-based bank.
Due to wide support for her candidacy in her home country, local media had already reported her emergence as first African to lead the WTO.
A statement by the USTR’s office read: “Minister Yoo is a bona-fide trade expert who has distinguished herself during a 25-year career as a successful trade negotiator and trade-policy maker. 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. It must be led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field.”
Molly Toomey a spokesperson for Okonjo-Iweala said: “Dr. Ngozi looks forward to the General Council on Nov. 9 when the committee will recommend her appointment as director-general.”
The Nigerian’s selection will hinge largely on the outcome of the US presidential election slated for November 3.