Biden administration finally supports Okonjo-Iweala for WTO top job

The new administration of Joe Biden has ended the deadlock over the next head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) by expressing its “strong support” for Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. 

Recall that Okonjo-Iweala was favorite for the job until the Trump administration last October said it wanted another woman, South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee.

But for now, Ms Yoo has withdrawn her candidacy.

If Dr Okonjo-Iweala is finally confirmed for the job, she would be the first woman and the first African to lead the WTO.

Okonjo-Iweala on Friday praised her rival for the post and said: “There is vital work ahead to do together.”

As at October last year, a WTO nominations committee recommended its164 members to appoint Dr Okonjo-Iweala as a replacement to outgoing chief Roberto Azevedo; a spokesman at the time said all had approved the appointment except one”

President Donald Trump who had described the WTO as “horrible” and biased towards China – wanted Ms Yoo, South Korea’s trade minister.

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Meanwhile, Ms Yoo on Friday said her decision to withdraw her candidacy was made in “close consultation” with the US. She said: “South Korea will actively contribute to reaching consensus for the next WTO chief and co-operate with her and participate in the WTO reform process.”

The US congratulated Ms Yoo on her “strong campaign” for the position and for being a “traiblazer” as South Korea’s first female trade minister.

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In a statement, it said the “US stands ready to engage in the next phase of the WTO process for reaching a consensus decision on the WTO Director General”.

Prior to this time, dozens of former US government officials have urged Biden to endorse Okonjo-Iweala, after the Trump administration blocked her selection.

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