Nigeria Intensifies Campaign for Okonjo-Iweala’s WTO Bid, Lobbies US, South Korea

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By James Emejo in Abuja

The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs. Mariam Katagum Friday said the federal government was currently reaching out to all members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) including the United States of America and South Korea to overcome the current impasse in the selection of a consensus candidate for the position of director general of the organisation.

US lone opposition had stalled Okonjo-Iweala’s declaration as the winner of the WTO race after securing the votes of 163 of the 164 members of the trade organization on Wednesday.

US is backing Okonjo-Iweala’s sole opponent, Ms. Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea.

Katagum said efforts were also ongoing to persuade the US to join the consensus in adopting the recommendation of the appointment of Okonjo-Iweala as DG of WTO.

The minister, who is the Chairperson of the Campaign Strategy Team for Nigeria’s candidate for the post of Director General, WTO, spoke during an emergency virtual meeting she convened to review and strategise on the way forward in the light of recent developments in the selection process for the appointment of Director General.

The minister pointed out that the third and final round of consultations for the selection of the DG-WTO which commenced in Geneva on October 19, 2020 was concluded on October 27.

According to her, “The Chair of the WTO General Council, Amb. David Walker of New Zealand, with the Facilitators of the selection process, the Chair of the Dispute Settlement Body and the Chair of the Trade Policy Review Body (Troika), on 28th October at the meeting of WTO Heads of Delegation in Geneva, informed the WTO Membership that the Nigerian candidate for DG-WTO, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala secured overwhelming support of members both in terms of numbers as well as geographical spread and therefore emerged as the candidate most likely to gain consensus as DG-WTO. “

“The appointment of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is expected to be adopted by consensus of all Members in line with WTO decision making procedure at a Special General Council Meeting scheduled for 9th November, 2020.

“However, the United States of America has registered reservation on the outcome of the final round in view of the fact that their preference is still the candidate of South Korea and further informed that they would not join the consensus in selecting Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala as DG-WTO at the Special General Council of 9th November, 2020.”

Katagum however, conveyed Nigeria’s profound appreciation to all Members of the WTO that have supported Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the post of WTO Director-General adding that the federal government would reach out to other countries to secure the consensus needed in the final decision on her appointment as the next Director- General of the WTO.”

“We shall keep you updated on this issue and hope that, we would achieve the desired goal of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala securing appointment as the first African and the first female to Head the WTO,” she added.