Nigeria to fight U.S. opposition to Okonjo-Iweala’s WTO candidacy

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Former Nigerian Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Fianace speaks at The 2017 Concordia Annual Summit at Grand Hyatt New York on September 19, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)
FILE PHOTO: Former Nigerian Finance minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. (Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

The Nigerian government pledged to continue lobbying for support for the candidacy of former Finance minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in her bid to become the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

“Nigeria will continue to engage relevant stakeholders to ensure that the lofty aspiration of her candidate to lead the World Trade Organization is realised,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement late on Thursday.

Following the conclusion of the months-long selection process, Okonjo-Iweala on Wednesday was recommended as the candidate to lead the global trade body and, thereby, become the first woman and African to head it.

Her recommendation still required approval by consensus at a meeting of the WTO’s 164 members.

However, the United States rejected the proposal saying that it backed the other remaining candidate, South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee.

A statement by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office argued that the WTO “must be led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field.”

Despite the setback, Okonjo-Iweala said she was “happy” with her bid and “very humbled” to have achieved the result she did.

“Happy for the success & continued progress of our WTO DG bid. Very humbled to be declared the candidate with the largest, broadest support among members & most likely to attract consensus. We move on to the next step on Nov 9, despite hiccups. We’re keeping the positivity going!” the 66-year-old tweeted.

The General Council of the WTO is scheduled to meet on November 9 for a final decision on the election process.

The WTO is currently being led by four deputies after Roberto Azevedo, from Brazil, stepped down a year early in August.