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WTO: Okonjo-Iweala advances to final round

The chances of Nigeria’s Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, emerging as the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) further brightened yesterday as she advanced to the final stage in the race for the position. After the final rounds of voting for the remaining five candidates, members of the WTO selected Okonjo- Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee, according to an announcement by the Geneva-based world trade body.

The first pool of eight candidates to replace Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down as WTO D-G in August – a year ahead of schedule, was narrowed down to five last month. The three eliminated during the second round of “confessionals” – in which all member states confidentially voice their preferences, were Britain’s Liam Fox, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri and Kenya’s Amina Mohamed.

Jesus Saede Kuri of Mexico, Tudor Ulianovschi of Moldova and Abdel- Hamid Mamdouh of Egypt were eliminated during the first round. Several sources familiar with the member states’ decision said: “Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria had made it. Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea had also made the cut.”

Okonjo-Iweala and Yoo’s candidacies received a boost earlier this week when European Union member states officially threw their weight behind them. A third and final round of consultations will begin later this month and is scheduled to run until November 6, when the WTO aims to agree by consensus on the next director-general. Okonjo-Iweala served as Nigeria’s first female Finance and Foreign Minister and has a 25-year career behind her as a development economist at the World Bank, scaling the ranks to the number 2 position of Managing Director, Operations.

She is also on the Twitter board of directors and is a special envoy for the World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 fight. In 2012, Okonjo-Iweala was a candidate for President of the World Bank, running against the bank’s former President, Jim Yong Kim. If she finally emerges the choice of the WTO members, she would not only be the first woman, but also the first African to lead the global trade body.

 

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