You are here: HomeNews2020 11 17Article 395113

Editorial News of Tuesday, 17 November 2020


Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy at WTO

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala Dr. Okonjo-Iweala

The race for the top job at the World Trade Organisation ( WTO) had eight candidates in its second round of the selection process.

They were Mohammad Maziad AlTuwaijri (Saudi Arabia), Liam Fox (United Kingdom), Jesus Seade Kuri (Mexico), AbdelHamid Mamdouh (Egypt), Amina C. Mohamed (Kenya), Yoo Myung-hee (Republic of Korea), Ngozi OkonjoIweala (Nigeria) and Tudor Ulianovschi (Moldova).

At the end of that exercise, the contest was reduced to two strong women, Okonjo-Iweala and Yoo Myung-hee.

Nigeria’s candidate for Director-General of the WTO, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala received overwhelming support from most member-countries in her bid to become the first African and the first female occupant of that highly coveted office.

The 160 nations in the 164-member organisation that have pledged their support for the astute global public administrator and development economist include countries of Africa, European Union, the Caribbean as well as Canada, China, Japan and Australia among others.

She was also backed by the WTO’s selection committee. The confidence which these nations have in her is not unconnected with her qualifications and diverse experience. Okonjo-Iweala is a former Nigerian Minister for Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, former Managing Director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank) among others.

She is favoured by the global trade ambassadors at Geneva mainly because of her hands-on-the-job capacity in carrying out reforms to their logical conclusion.

The global trade watchdog has never needed reform in its 25-year history as it does today.

In a sudden twist of events, the United States rejected the front-runner candidate; and in the process scuttled the consensus of the WTO’s other 160-member nations on the candidacy of Dr. OkonjoIweala.

By defying the other members, the United States has not only made the outcome of the race uncertain but has also succeeded in laying a dangerous precedent in selecting the DG of the universal trade body.

This happened even though she holds dual citizenships of Nigeria and the United States.

The US delegates preferred to back Ms Yoo ‘because of her 25 years trade experience’, claiming that she ‘would hit the ground running’ because of her ‘bona fide trade experience.’

Although every member-country of the WTO has the right to express reservation or raise objections to the emergence of any candidate it finds unsuitable to head the organisation, it is our view that America’s current position is an extension of its trade rivalry with China.

It is also an arrogant display of an ‘overriding’ American interest in global affairs. It may be recalled that the objection (and eventual vetoing) by China of America’s move to install its citizen, Alan Wolff, one of the deputy directors-general, as the DG in an acting capacity may not have gone down well with the US.

The incoming WTO boss is expected to galvanise the body to promote rules-based trade which now has been paralysed by geopolitical tensions.

The Chinese brand of capitalism which the US is not comfortable with and the American penchant for unilateral actions are serious issues on the table.

This would naturally make the US sceptical with any candidate that may not approach world trade negotiations and deals from her own perspective.

It is also worrisome that the US that recently opposed Abuja’s candidate for the President of the African Development Bank is also the one opposing yet another Nigerian candidate for the WTO job.

We wonder whether there is a strain in USNigeria diplomatic relations that is hidden from the public space.

All this gives credence to the speculation that American rejection of the candidacy of OkonjoIweala may have nothing to do with her qualification.

The United States should be reminded that it has always had good relations with Nigeria. Going against Nigeria’s interest now is inauspicious.

America should consider the unreserved endorsement by other countries.

The current American stance on the WTO leadership is not healthy for the world as management of international organisations is expected to be above board.

What is expected to dominate discussions and alignments in choosing the next DG is the appointee’s capacity to raise the body from its dysfunctional state and prepare it to conclude all outstanding disputes and negotiations.

The US occupies the lone and envious position of superpower in our contemporary unipolar world and therefore may not have any point to prove in supporting Ms Yoo against the endorsement of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala by the rest of the world.

We call on the Nigerian government to stand resolutely behind Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and leave no stone unturned in lobbying all stakeholders for her candidacy.

With the outcome of the recent presidential election in America, it is hoped that a more amenable Joe Biden would not allow the world boat to be rocked by unilateralism.

Join our Newsletter!