WTO DG: US kicks as Okonjo-Iweala inches close to victory


A last minute objection by the United States government yesterday
delayed the naming of Nigeria’s former finance minister, Dr Ngozi
Okonjo Iweala, the new director general of the World Trade
Organisation (WTO).
The U.S. had during a meeting of WTO delegates in Geneva, said it
won’t back the appointment of Okonjo-Iweala to be the WTO’s next
U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer had pushed for South
Korea’s candidate, Yoo Myung-hee, Iweala’s opponent. Sources say he
views Okonjo-Iweala as being too close to pro-trade internationalists
in Washington like Robert Zoellick, a former USTR who worked with
Okonjo-Iweala when he was president of the World Bank.
The objection is coming just as she received a key endorsement from
the WTO selection committee, which moved her a step closer to becoming
the WTO’s first female director-general.
On Monday, she also got the endorsement of the European Union having
earlier received the endorsement of the European parliament as well as
all the African countries, bringing the number of countries that have
endorsed her to 104 out of the 164 members, which gave her a clear
However all WTO decisions are taken by a consensus of its 164 members,
which means the U.S’ move will act as a veto that disrupts the
A WTO official however said they would continue to work until
consensus is reached ahead of meeting of the general council
tentatively set for November 9.
Meanwhile, there was jubilations in Nigeria earlier yesterday as news
filtered in that Okonjo-Iweala had emerged as new WTO director
The president general of Igbo apex socio-political and cultural
organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, lauded her
emergence as WTO DG describing it as a reward for excellence which she
The president general in a statement said the victory is uplifting as
it came at the right time when Nigeria and her citizens were going
through difficult times.
“A Nigerian daughter emerging to lead such high global body at this
time gives hope that the future is right if square pegs are put in
square holes in the leadership in this country.”
Also reacting to the news, national chairman of the main opposition
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Prince Uche Secondus, welcomed the
historic emergence of Nigeria’s former finance minister, Dr Ngozi
Okonjo-Iweala as the first female and African director general of WTO.
Secondus in a congratulatory message from his media office in Abuja
said that the victory of Dr Okonjo-Iweala in the highly contested
global position mirrors the greatness of tomorrow’s Nigeria.
The PDP chairman said Okonjo-Iweala’s victory is a reward for hardwork
and commitment to excellence as she demonstrated in all positions she
held nationally and internationally.
“This savoring news coming at this time that the nation is witnessing
her worse due to leadership failure is relieving and hope rising that
a greater tomorrow awaits this land.”
In her own reaction, the senior special assistant to President Buhari
on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Princess Adejoke
Orelope-Adfulire expressed confidence that the emergence of Dr
Okonjo–Iweala as WTO DG will help in the actualisation of the 2030
Agenda of ‘Leaving No One Behind,’ leveraging on her new office.
Orelope-Adfulire who made this known yesterday in a congratulatory
message to Okonjo-Iweala also said that her WTO position would improve
Africa’s trade position with the rest of the world, thereby helping to
create wealth and reduce poverty in the continent.
The presidential aide also noted that with her emergence as the first
female leader in the WTO’s 25-year history, Okonjo-Iweala has again
broken new ground while further solidifying her position as a
trailblazer and inspiration for the girl child and women in many
aspects of life.
Also, vice-presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2019 elections, Mr
Peter Obi in his congratulatory message yesterday described Dr
Okonjo-Iweala’s emergence as WTO DG as historic being the first female
and first African to hold such a position.
Obi, who had earlier drummed up support for Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy,
expressed delight at her emergence, saying she had always been known
to shine brilliantly wherever she found herself.
The former Anambra State governor said he has high confidence that
Okonjo-Iweala has the ability to draw from her skills and wide
experience from the economic and financial sectors to lead the WTO to
greater heights.
Obi stated that Okonjo-Iweala’s track record of success, both in
Nigeria as finance minister and across the world, where she
successfully served in many global organisations and agencies,
including the World Bank, stood her out as the right candidate for the
“The historic emergence of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the first African
and first female director-general of the WTO has brought immense joy
to me personally and to all well-meaning people in Nigeria and far
beyond. Her appointment is eloquent testimony that Nigeria has all it
takes in terms of human resources to be a great nation.
“Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has always been a shining star, not just in our
country Nigeria, but across the world where her leadership impact has
been felt, and her selection for this lofty position has not come as a
surprise to those of us who know her well. Understandably, therefore,
there are high hopes that she will perform creditably in her new
assignment,” Obi enthused.
Obi further commended the member nations of WTO who he said, put merit
above sentiments in selecting a very capable person for the job.
He equally appreciated Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, for
recognising the great potential in Okonjo-Iweala and nominating her
for the job, noting that her emergence in the position is a huge
blessing to the country.
Obi prayed God to give Okonjo-Iweala the wisdom to deliver on her new
mandate: “May God Almighty grant you the wisdom and strength to
succeed in this globally powerful organisation.”


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