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But for now, Ms Yoo has withdrawn her candidacy.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.
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.
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.