Okonjo-Iweala set to become WTO director general as contender withdraws from the race

This means the former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is now the only remaining candidate for the WTO job

The South Korean trade minister, Yoo Myung-hee, has withdrawn from the race to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO), Bloomberg has reported.

This means the former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is now the only remaining candidate for the top job.

According to Bloomberg, the South Korean minister made the decision after discussions with the US and other major stakeholders.

Reports suggest Yoo examined all the issues “comprehensively”, including the need to revitalise the multilateral organisation, according to a statement from Korea’s trade ministry.

Her withdrawal comes after US government officials urged President Joe Biden to endorse Okonjo-Iweala after the Trump administration had blocked her selection.

The WTO had to hold off on the entire process last year due to Trump’s opposition, since the WTO always chooses its director general by consensus.

Boost for Africa

A panel at the WTO recommended Okonjo-Iweala for the director general’s position on 28 October last year.

An announcement that she was the new director general of the World Trade Organization would be a tremendous boost for Africa. The panel recommendation lines her up for one of the toughest jobs in the international system.

Sources in Geneva said that she had won support from the vast majority of members, including the European Union, Japan and China, but not the United States, according to The Africa Report.

She will have to lead the charge for a revival of multilateralism in the negotiating chambers of the WTO and for a better deal for developing economies. She will also have to oversee the practical matter of how reforming trade and patent rules can allow the distribution of life-saving vaccines and therapeutics as the second wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic rips across the world.

Reforms stymied

As the first woman and first African to lead the trade body, Okonjo-Iweala has shattered a couple of glass ceilings at the same time.

She also has a chance to put Africa’s plans to build the world’s biggest free trade area on the top table, pointing to the productive and market opportunities on the continent.

At the same time, she has won the race for the job from hell. That much was clear when her predecessor – Brazil’s Robert Azevêdo – quit the post early after years of frustration with the logjams in negotiations on reforming the WTO.

The negotiations have been made harder still by the eruption of a trade war between the US and China, besides other sporadic outbreaks of economic nationalism across the globe.

Fred Dzakpata 

Asaase Radio 99.5 – tune in or log on to broadcasts online
Follow us on Twitter: @asaaseradio995
#asaaseradio  #TVOL


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