Ngozi Okojo-Iweala, Nigeria former Finance Minister of finance will eventually be confirmed as World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General, despite the United States (U.S.) opposition, the Federal Government said on Wednesday.
Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a message congratulated Dr. Okonjo-Iweala over her impending emergence as head of the global trade organisation.
The United States is blocking Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment despite winning the overwhelming backing of the body’s 164 members.
The former minister has moved a step closer to becoming the first woman and the first African Director-General of the global trade watchdog after securing the support of a key group of trade ambassadors in Geneva.
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Dennis Shea, during a meeting of WTO delegates in Geneva, said the U.S. could not support a consensus decision to appoint Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, according to three officials who monitored the proceedings.
Shea said the U.S. disagreed with the way in which the process was being carried out.
A selection panel of three WTO trade ministers found that Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala had far more support than her South Korean rival, Yoo Myung-hee.
The former World Bank Managing Director was backed by countries in the Caribbean, Africa, the European Union, China, Japan and Australia.
An original list of eight candidates, which included UK’s Liam Fox, has been whittled down to a final two since the summer.
By tradition, the WTO chooses its director-general by consensus, with all 164 members having to approve a candidate.
But the U.S. has been unhappy with the way the WTO has operated for some time, objecting to China’s designation as a developing country and blocking the appointment of new judges to the organisation’s appeals body.
Sources said it was unclear whether Washington’s opposition to Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala was a deliberate attempt to sabotage an organisation much-criticised by President Donald Trump.
A WTO spokesman said her candidacy would be put to a meeting of the body’s governing general council on November 9, adding that there was likely to be “frenzied activity” in the meantime to secure consensus.
In the event that Washington maintains its opposition to Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, the WTO’s Constitution provides for a vote, although every previous director-general in the organisation’s 25-year history has been appointed by consensus and trade experts said life would be difficult if an appointment was made against the wishes of the US.
Mrs. Orelope-Adfulire was optimistic that Okonjo-Iweala’s emergence would help improve Africa’s trade position with the rest of the world.
The presidential aide noted that as an expert on the use of trade, economics and governance as tools of development, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala as WTO D-G “will be in a position to help in the actualisation of 2030 agenda of leaving no one behind”, leveraging her new office.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Chairman Prince Uche Secondus, former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, and Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide lauded Dr. Okonjo-Iweala for crossing the first hurdle.
In a message from his media office, Secondus said Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s victory in the highly-contested global position was rewarding and that it mirrored that a greater tomorrow awaited the country.
He described her victory as a reward for hard work and commitment to excellence as she demonstrated in all the positions she held nationally and internationally.