The World Trade Organisation has postponed a meeting where members are expected to pick a new Director-General after the United States blocked the favoured candidate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The WTO earlier announced that the meeting would hold next week.
But a communication seen by AFP showed that the meeting has been postponed indefinitely.
“It has come to my attention that for reasons including the health situation and current events, delegations will not be in a position to take a formal decision on 9 November,” the head of the selection committee told member states.
“I am therefore postponing this meeting until further notice during which period I will continue to undertake consultations with delegations,” he added.
The PUNCH had reports that the United States opposed Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the consensus candidate to lead the WTO.
The US said it is supporting South Korean trade minister, Yoo Myung-hee, to become the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation because she is a “trade expert”.
However, the European Union and WTO’s ambassadors backed Okonjo-Iweala for the position.
US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, while giving reasons for opposing Okonjo-Iweala, who gained American citizenship in 2019, said WTO needs “someone with real, hands-on experience in the field”.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s nominee for the office of the director-general of the World Trade Organisation, has emerged winner of the highly competitive race.
TheCable reports that Okonjo-Iweala was chosen as the final candidate for the much-coveted role. She polled 104 votes from 164 member countries to defeat how South Korea’s trade minister at the final stage of the race.
She has broken many records, including becoming the first African to occupy /win that office at the WTO.
The official announcement is expected to be made by the WTO at 3pm Nigerian time.
World Trade Organisation (WTO) members have selected two final candidates — Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee — to advance to the final round in the race to lead the Geneva-based trade body, according to people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.
By advancing two women to the final round of the selection process, the WTO will likely have the first female director general in its 25-year history
Okonjo-Iweala served two stints as Nigeria’s finance minister and one term as foreign affairs minister. She has experience working at international international governance bodies as a former managing director of the World Bank and as a chairman at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.
Yoo is South Korea’s trade minister. During her 25-year career in government, she has helped expand her country’s trade network through bilateral accords with the United States, China and the United Kingdom.
WTO General Council Chairman, David Walker, plans to formally announce the results to the institution’s delegates on Thursday morning in Geneva.
The United Kingdom’s Liam Fox, Kenya’s Amina Chawahir Mohamed Jibril, and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri did not secure enough support in the second round of consultations, according to people familiar with the matter.
The third and final phase of the consultation process will begin later this month and run until November 6, after which the WTO will endeavour to name a consensus winner of the race.
Clouding the outlook for the selection process is the U.S. presidential election November 3. The WTO makes decisions on a consensus basis, and a lack of American support for any of the finalists could mean delays in picking the new director-general.
European Union governments will support Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee to lead the World Trade Organisation as the race enters its final month, reports Bloomberg.
EU member-country envoys agreed on Monday in Brussels to endorse Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former finance minister, and Yoo Myung-hee, South Korea’s trade chief, in their bids to become WTO director-general, according to an official familiar with the matter.
Hungary swung behind the planned recommendation after being the only EU country to withhold support at a lower-level meeting last Friday of officials representing the 27-nation bloc, the person said on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations were confidential.
Five candidates are still in the running to the lead the WTO. It plans to announce two finalists after today and name a winner by November 7.
Brazilian Roberto Azevedo stepped down from the job at the end of August — a year before his term ended. The Geneva-based trade body faces headwinds from the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S.-China trade battle, a hobbled arbitration system and a lack of tools to tackle growing challenges such as industrial subsidies.
Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is still in the running for the role of Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), as the body’s General Council meets on Tuesday, to cut down five candidates left to two.
Others still in the competition include Saudi Arabia’s former minister of economy and planning, Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri; UK’s former secretary of state for international trade, Liam Fox; South Korea’s Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee; and Kenya’s former international trade minister, Amina Mohamed.
Mexico’s Jesus Seade, Egypt’s Hamid Mamdouh and Moldova’s Tudor Ulianovschi dropped out last month.
Next week, the five aspirants remaining in the race to replace Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down as the WTO director-general a year ahead of schedule, will be whittled down to just two after a second elimination round.
The contenders left are either current or former Ministers, something that WTO officials had previously said was an important characteristic for a future Director-General.
Okonjo-Iweala is believed to be a big favourite, as she is also a former Managing Director of the World Bank.
Also, there have been calls for an African to finally lead the WTO, which has counted three Director-Generals from Europe and one each from Oceania, Asia and South America since it was created in 1995.
The WTO’s goal is to name a new leader by November 7, 2020.