US wants WTO DG race reopened, says Okonjo-Iweala lacks real experience in trade

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By Mukwuzi Joseph

The prospect of the former Nigerian minister of finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, becoming the first female director-general of the World Trade Organisation has met a setback, as the United States wants the race reopened.

This was revealed as Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, said an experienced handler is needed for the high profile job.

Lighthizer, in an interview with BBC, said the job is for “someone with real experience in trade, not someone from the World Bank or a development person.”

Okonjo-Iweala had got the backing of 110 out of 164 member countries, but the US opposed her candidacy.

The trade organisation operates based on consensus, that is, if one country opposes, a final decision cannot be made.

Iweala and Yoo Myung Hee, South Korea’s trade minister, are the final candidates for the top job at the WTO following the resignation of Roberto Azevêdo in May.

Following the lack of a consensus, the WTO had postponed the general council meeting to consider the appointment of a new DG till further notice.

Lightizer confirmed that there is no way the Trump administration would be persuaded to back Iweala in its remaining weeks in office.

He said the WTO is “massively in need of reform”, especially its dispute-resolving appellate body, which according to him, has evolved into a body creating a common law of trade, “taking away benefits” that members had negotiated for “ and putting a restraint on things that had been conceded”.




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