By Mukwuzi Joseph
The United States (US) has told a meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Wednesday that it does not back Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next WTO leader, despite cross-regional support for her, two sources at the meeting told Reuters.
The move could undermine the global trade body as it seeks to select a successor to director-general Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down in August.
A key group of WTO ambassadors had proposed Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next chief, but any such decision requires a consensus among the 164 WTO members, meaning any of them could block her appointment.
“One delegation could not support the candidacy of Dr. Ngozi and said they would continue to support South Korean minister Yoo. That delegation was the United States of America,” WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell told reporters at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva after the closed-door meeting.
The WTO has set a meeting to settle the matter for Nov. 9, less than a week after U.S. voters go to the polls for a presidential election. It was not immediately clear if the outcome of the vote would affect the U.S. position on Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment.
Rockwell said there was likely to be “frenzied activity” before the Nov. 9 meeting to secure the required consensus.
Many members such as China and the United States had declined to name their preference publicly although some African, Caribbean and other states had voiced support for Okonjo-Iweala.