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Saturday, December 5, 2020

US Opposes Ex-Nigerian Minister WTO Appointment

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The US has opposed the appointment of Nigeria’s former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General.

The President Trump administration is rather supporting the bid for South Korean Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee.

A Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Dennis Shea, has stated that Washington will not join a consensus to appoint Okonjo-Iweala because the U.S. supports her opponent, Ms. Myung-hee.

This is despite the fact that Dr Okonjo-Iweala gained American citizenship in 2019.

About the selection process

The process to select a new Director General for the WTO, lasted for a period of four months.

What Ms Okonjo-Iweala says about her nomination?

After she was announced the next Director General of WTO, the former Nigerian Finance Minister under the erstwhile former President Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP Government, says she was “immensely humbled” to be nominated.

But it seems she has an uphill task to persuade the US officials to change their minds and support her appointment as Washington insists it would continue to back South Korea’s trade minister.

Critical statement

In a critical statement against the WTO, the Office of the US Trade Representative noted that WTO “must be led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field”.

The Office of the US Trade Representative advises President Donald Trump on trade policy.

According to the statement, Ms Yoo had “distinguished herself” as a trade expert and “has all the skills necessary to be an effective leader of the organisation”.

The statement indicated that “This is a very difficult time for the WTO and international trade. There have been no multilateral tariff negotiations in 25 years, the dispute settlement system has gotten out of control, and too few members fulfill basic transparency obligations. The WTO is badly in need of major reform.”

“Horrible, Bias”

US President Trump has labelled the WTO as “horrible” and biased towards China.

Other appointments to key roles in the WTO have also been blocked.

About Leadership Vacancy

It became necessary to elect a new Director-General for WTO after outgoing WTO boss, Roberto Azevedo, stepped down a year early in August.

At the moment, the WTO is being led by four deputies.

About Okonjo-Iweala

Ms Okonjo-Iweala, aged 66, served as Nigeria’s first female finance and foreign minister.

She has a 25-year career as a development economist at the World Bank..

She is serving on Twitter’s board of directors, as chair of the GAVI vaccine alliance and as a special envoy for the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 fight.

A few years ago, a Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana, wrote to the International Criminal Court (ICC), asking the Court to investigate Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and others over their involvements in the alleged $2.1 billion arms scandal.

By Melvin Tarlue

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