A former Nigerian minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has become the sole candidate in the race for the office of the director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), after South Korean Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee, withdrew her bid to contest.
The race for the job has been frozen since 6 November 2020 when it emerged that Okonjo-Iweala had support from over 70% of the WTO members but President Donald Trump’s government insisted it would veto her candidacy and back Minister Yoo instead.
At that point, the WTO administrators suspended the election process indefinitely. Diplomats in Geneva said that decision was to see whether the US would change its position if Trump lost the presidential election that month.
Following Trump’s defeat in the Presidential election, the US government led by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris has finally endorse Okonjo-Iweala for the WTO DG.
In a statement seen on Friday, the office of the US Trade Representative said the Biden-Harris admin is pleased to support the candidacy of Okonjo-Iweala.
“The United States takes note of today’s decision by the Republic of Korea’s Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee to withdraw her candidacy for Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO),” the statement read.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is pleased to express its strong support for the candidacy of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-lweala as the next Director General of the WTO.
“Dr. Okonjo-Iweala brings a wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy from her 25 years with the World Bank and two terms as Nigerian Finance Minister.
“She is widely respected for her effective leadership and has proven experience managing a large international organization with a diverse membership.”
Meanwhile, South Korean Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee, has withdrawn her bid to lead the global trade body after discussions with the US and other major nations, a statement from Korea’s trade ministry said on Friday.
She also took various issues into account “comprehensively” including the need to revitalise the multilateral organization, reports said Friday.
“Due to the prolonged vacancy of the leadership at the WTO, the future of the organization also has become uncertain,” Yoo said at a press briefing in Seoul.
“To speed up the consensus-building among the member countries on selecting a new director-general, I have decided to renounce my candidacy through close cooperation with the United States, our strong ally.
“Washington, which showed strong support for my candidacy, also respects the decision to step down from the race.”
Korea's Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee announced on February 5 (local time) that she would withdraw her candidacy for the next World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General. Korea will continue to work with responsibility for the restoration of the multilateral trading system.
— MOTIE – Korea (@MOTIEKoreaEng) February 5, 2021
Following the development, Okonjo-Iweala is a step closer to becoming the first African and first woman to lead the World Trade Organization.
KanyiDaily recalls a few months ago, Okonjo-Iweala’s joined the list of eminent Africans to have received the Forbes award sfter she was named ‘Africa Person of the Year 2020.’