FORMER finance minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is confident that she will be confirmed as the director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) later this month once US president-elect Joe Biden assume office on the 20th.
During the final round of voting by WTO delegates last year, Dr Okonjo-Iweala emerged victorious, securing 104 votes from the 164 member countries, piping South Korea’s trade minister Yoo Myung-hee. to the top job. However, the US said it supported the selection of Ms Yoo because she is a bona fide trade expert who has distinguished herself during a 25-year career as a successful trade negotiator and trade policy maker.
Under its selection procedure, the WTO works by trying to finding a consensus on electing a director-general but with the US refusing to along with a majority, there was a stalemate. However, with President Biden due to be sworn-in on January 20, the US is expected to return to being a collegiate player in world trade, abandoning the unilateralist style of President Donald Trump.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala says she remains hopeful that she will be announced as the next WTO boss once Mr Biden becomes the next US president. With China and the European Union backing Dr Okonjo-Iweala, once President Biden drops any US opposition, the appointment will become a fair accompli.
“Because of the rules that they have to agree everything by consensus, if a country doesn’t join the consensus then sometimes it becomes difficult. In this case the United States did not join for reasons that no one can really understand.”
“The majority of the 162 countries were in a consensus behind my candidacy but let’s look forward, we are very hopeful that with the new administration coming in, we can begin to finalize this aspect of the director-general WTO position. It was a very difficult race, it took place over five months and when I started it I was very honoured to be nominated by the country and then by the continent,” Dr Okonjo-Iweala added.
She admitted to having butterflies in her stomach as the race for the job reached its climax. Dr Okonjo-Iweala said: “I didn’t know it would be so gruelling.
“It was a very tough competition over five months with different stages. There were times I had butterflies in my stomach about whether I was going to make it.”