Just In! WTO: Biden Officially Throws Weight Behind Okonjo-Iweala’s Candidacy


From Segun Amure, (The New Diplomat’s Abuja Bureau)

The United States President, Joe Biden has officially endorsed Nigeria’s candidate, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the Director General position of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The Biden administration disclosed this in a statement released, Friday, by the United States Trade Representative’s Office, where it said the U.S was ready to get to work with Okonjo-Iweala, noting she was “widely respected for her effective leadership and proven experience managing a large international organization with a diverse membership.”

“The United States stands ready to engage in the next phase of the WTO process for reaching a consensus decision on the WTO Director-General.

“The Biden Administration looks forward to working with a new WTO Director General to find paths forward to achieve necessary substantive and procedural reform of the WTO,” it said. Last week the US had pledged a commitment to positive and constructive reforms at the WTO.

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With Biden’s nod for her candidacy, Okonjo- Iweala is set to become the first African and female DG of WTO.

Iweala will succeed Roberto Azevêdo Former Director-General of WTO who stepped down on 31 August 2020.

Early Friday, The New Diplomat reported that the South Korean candidate, Yoo Myung-hee, had stepped down her candidacy for WTO top seat, leaving only Iweala in the race.

Myung-hee’s words, “Due to the prolonged vacancy of the leadership at the WTO, the future of the organization also has become uncertain,” Yoo said at a press briefing in Seoul.

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“To speed up the consensus-building among the member countries on selecting a new director-general, I have decided to renounce my candidacy through close cooperation with the United States, our strong ally.

“Washington, which showed strong support for my candidacy, also respects the decision to step down from the race.” Myung-hee said.

Before now, majority of the WTO ambassadors had tapped Okonjo-Iweala back in October as the best pick to lead the organisation, but opposition by the Trump’s administration stalled the process since late last year.

Reacting to the development, WTO spokesman, Keith Rockwell, told reporters on Friday that there are possibilities that the WTO General Council meeting could be called before March 1 for the 164 member-states to ratify the decision on the next DG. “Another could be called on short notice,” Rockwell added.

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The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that is concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations. The WTO officially commenced on 1 January 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, signed by 123 nations on 15 April 1994.

As a world organisation, it deals with regulation of trade in goods, services and intellectual property between participating countries by providing a framework for negotiating trade agreements and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants’ adherence to WTO agreements, which are signed by representatives of member governments and ratified by their parliaments.


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