Uche Usim, Abuja (with agency report)
Despite polling 104 votes from 164 member countries to defeat her contender on Wednesday, all coast is not clear for Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to resume as the Director-General of the World Trade Organization.
This is because the Trump administration said it won’t back her candidature.
According Bloomberg, the Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Dennis Shea at a meeting of WTO delegates in Geneva, said that the U.S. could not support a consensus decision to appoint Okonjo-Iweala.
All WTO decisions are taken by a consensus of its 164 members, which means the U.S. move will act as a veto that disrupts the process.
A WTO official said work would continue to reach a consensus ahead of meeting of the General Council tentatively set for Nov. 9.
The development came after Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former finance minister, received a key endorsement Wednesday from the WTO selection committee, which moved her a step closer to becoming the WTO’s first female director-general.
Shea said the U.S. disagreed with the way in which the process was being carried out, according to the people.
If it’s not possible for the general council to agree on a consensus candidate, WTO members can consider the possibility of recourse to a vote as a last resort by a procedure to be determined at that time. Such a development would be unprecedented for the WTO.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has pushed for South Korea’s candidate, Yoo Myung-hee, even though Okonjo-Iweala gained U.S. citizenship in 2019.
Sources close to Lighthizer say he views Okonjo-Iweala as being too close to pro-trade internationalists in Washington like Robert Zoellick, a former USTR who worked with Okonjo-Iweala when he was president of the World Bank.
An impasse in the WTO leadership race wouldn’t likely bother President Donald Trump, who has blasted the Geneva-based organization as a tool for globalists who allowed China’s economic rise to go unchecked.
If Trump wins the U.S. election next week, his aides have indicated they plan to continue to reshape the WTO with a narrower scope to resolve trade disputes.