In a manner reminiscent of its role when Akinwunmi Adesina was seeking re-election as the president of African Development Bank (AfDB) earlier in the year, the Trump administration has again thrown a spanner in the wheels of the emergence of Nigeria’s former Finance minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
This is coming on the heels of endorsement of the candidacy of the Nigerian development expert by a key group of WTO ambassadors, the so-called “troika” led by New Zealand’s Ambassador, David Walker.
At the end of the close door meeting of heads of delegation today, the WTO spokesman, Keith Rockwell told reporters that “All of the delegations that expressed their views today expressed very strong support for the process, for the troika and for the outcome. Except for one.
“The candidate that had the best chance of attaining a consensus of the membership is Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria. Consultations on the way forward will start immediately”, he said.
The Trump administration’s treatment of the WTO has always been everything but respect. The US president once described the organisation as “horrible” and went ahead by blocking appointments to its appeals panel. Now it threatens to render it leaderless for weeks or months to come.
The WTO itself has called a meeting for Nov. 9, less than a week after the presidential election, by which time it hopes to have secured full backing for Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The decision needs to be approved by consensus, however, meaning any of the 164 WTO members could block her appointment.
Washington continued to support South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee in the final round of a more than four-month selection process even though Ikonjo-Iweala is an American citizen.
Rockwell said there was likely to be “frenzied activity” before the Nov. 9 meeting to secure the required consensus.
Okonjo-Iweala, a development expert, has branded herself a “do-er”, saying she has the political clout to command influence in capitals.
Currently chair of the GAVI vaccine alliance board, Okonjo-Iweala has also said the WTO should play a role in helping poorer countries access COVID-19 drugs and vaccines.