Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: WTO Postpones Meeting For Selection Of New DG
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 from being selected.
WTO’s 164 member states had been due to meet on Monday to choose between two remaining candidates – Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee – to head the organisation.
However, the head of the selection committee set up to help with the process told members on Friday the meeting has been postponed till further notice.
General Council chair, David Walker in a communication seen by AFP, stated;
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.
I am therefore postponing this meeting until further notice during which period I will continue to undertake consultations with delegations.
WTO selection committee has held months of consultations with members towards finding a replacement for Roberto Azevedo, who in August stepped down as director-general a year ahead of schedule.
After gradually whittling down the initial list of eight candidates, the committee last week declared Nigeria’s former finance and foreign minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the one most likely to obtain the needed consensus to take the helm.
However, hopes that the final stage would be a simple rubber-stamping exercise were dashed when United States announced its support for South Korean trade minister, Yoo Myung-hee instead because she is a “trade expert”.
Meanwhile, European Union and WTO’s ambassadors backed Okonjo-Iweala for the position.
United States announcement threw the WTO leadership hunt into uncertainty.
In recent days, many observers have stressed member states had little chance of agreeing on a new director-general as long as Donald Trump, perhaps WTO’s most fervent critic, remains in the White House, and have urged a delay.
Members could toss out the consensus principle and turn to a voting system to choose a new DG, but such a procedure has never been attempted in practice at the WTO.
In 1999, when members were unable to unanimously choose who should be given four years at the helm, they opted to hand the two top picks a three-year mandate each instead of resorting to a vote.
If Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala eventually gets a majority backing, she would be the first woman and the first African to lead the global trade body in its 25-year history.