NGOZI Okonjo-Iweala’s chances of becoming the next director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) increased significantly yesterday when the European Union (EU) asked its member states to back her candidacy.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala, 65, was one of seven candidates seeking to be named as the next WTO boss through a process whereby rather than hold elections, the selection procedure relies on finding a consensus candidate. Five candidates are still in the race to lead the WTO, including Saudi Arabia’s former minister of economy and planning Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri, the UK’s former secretary of state for international trade Liam Fox, Kenya’s former international trade minister Amina Jibril and South Korea’s trade minister Yoo Myung-hee.
Africa has never produced a WTO director-general before and although there is no rule which says the position has to be rotated by continent, there appears to a consensus that the continent should produce the boss this time around. It is thus no surprise that Dr Okonjo-Iweala and Kenya’s Amina Jibril are the two leading contenders.
Yesterday, the EU boosted Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s chances when the community adopted her as its first candidate and Mr Yoo Myung-hee as its second choice. Hungary eventually swung behind the planned recommendation after being the only EU country to withhold support at a lower-level meeting of officials representing the 27-nation bloc last Friday.
Later today, the WTO intends to announce two finalists and name a winner by November 7. This became necessary because Brazilian Roberto Azevedo stepped down from the job at the end of August a year before his term ended.