NIGERIA’S former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala looks set to be officially named as the next director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) after South Korea indicated that it intends to withdraw the candidature of its trade minister Yoo Myung-hee.
During the final round of voting by WTO delegates, Dr Okonjo-Iweala emerged victorious, securing 104 votes from the 164 member countries, piping Ms Yoo. to the top job. However, the US said it supported the selection of Ms Yoo because she is a bona fide trade expert who has distinguished herself during a 25-year career as a successful trade negotiator and trade policy maker.
Under its selection procedure, the WTO works by trying to finding a consensus on electing a director-general but with the US refusing to along with a majority, there may now be a deciding vote. With China and the European Union (EU) backing Dr Okonjo-Iweala, US support suddenly became an issue as most of the global trading disputes are between the three blocs.
It is believed that the US only blocked Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s candidature because President Donald Trump wanted a confrontation with China and the EU. However, with President Trump now on his way out of office, it is believed that president-elect Biden will not be so confrontational in his approach to world trade, so South Korea has decided to withdraw its candidate.
According to the Washington Trade Daily, Seoul has already conveyed its decision to the US and is expected to announce this decision over the coming weeks. Typical of the stance of the manner in which it operates, the Trump administration had refused to accept the recommendation made by the WTO’s selection panel that Dr Okonjo-Iweala be confirmed as director-general despite being voted for by 163 out of 164 WTO members.