Key WTO ambassadors tapped Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Wednesday as the best pick to lead the organisation, but she was opposed by Washington, who said it supported South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee instead.
The so-called troika of ambassadors heading the World Trade Organization’s three main branches determined after four months of consultations with member states that Okonjo-Iweala was the most likely to obtain the consensus needed to take the top job, WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell told reporters.
The initial pool of eight candidates for the WTO’s top post had been whittled down to just two over two previous rounds of consultations, with only Okonjo-Iweala and South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee left in the race.
The global trade body is thus set to be led by a woman for the first time whichever of the two final candidates succeeds in their bid to follow Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down as WTO director-general in August a year ahead of schedule.
The troika, led by New Zealand’s Ambassador David Walker, concluded a third round of consultations on Tuesday.
Its decision marks an important step paving the way for Okonjo-Iweala to become the first woman and the first African to head the organisation.
But the WTO’s 164 member states still need to determine whether they will support her before their next General Council meeting on November 9.
And on Wednesday, Washington already said it was opposed to her taking the helm, casting doubt on whether she can obtain the necessary full backing from member states.
Rockwell said that 27 delegations had taken the floor during Wednesday’s meeting.
“One delegation could not support the candidacy of Dr. Nogzi and said they would continue (supporting) South Korean minister Yoo,” he said.
“That delegation was United States of America.”
Rockwell meanwhile stressed that Wednesday’s meeting “was never intended to make a final decision on our next DG (director general).”
“That decision can only be taken by the General Council,” he said.
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