Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is gearing up to lead the World Trade Organisation (WTO) following a very competitive race involving candidates from Kenya, Egypt, Britain, Mexico, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Moldovia.

Dr. Ngozi received 163 votes of the 164 member countries. However, the United States (US) is making a move to forestall a consensus win by objecting to her leadership. In statement released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative on the selection of the next World Trade Organisation Director-General:

“The United States supports the selection of Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee as the next WTO Director-General. Minister Yoo is a bona fide trade expert who has distinguished herself during a 25-year career as a successful trade negotiator and trade policy maker.  She has all the skills necessary to be an effective leader of the organization.

“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.  It must be led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field.”

The World Trade Organisation is a place where member governments try to sort out the trade problems they face with each other. It is also a forum for governments to negotiate trade agreements. Since the WTO was created in 1995, three of its directors-general were from Europe, while one each came from Oceania, Asia and South America.

In addressing the US concerns, the World Trade Organisation is calling all member countries for a meeting on 9 November – after the US presidential election. US opposition does not mean Dr. Ngozi cannot be appointed, but Washington could nevertheless wield considerable influence over the final decision. If former Vice President Joe Biden emerges as President on 3 November, the US decision might change on the subject.


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