The decision by the World Trade Organisation, WTO to finally endorse the first African and first woman to lead the trade governing body since its establishment in 1995 has been put on hold until further notice.

The chair of the WTO General Council, Ambassador David Walker, informed members of the decision on 6 November. 

Amb. Walker said, reasons including the health situation and current events, have prevented the WTO to take a formal decision on 9 November. 

According to Amb. Walker, the  meeting would be postponed until further notice, during which time he would continue undertaking consultations with delegations.

The appointment committee set up by the WTO recommended Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance and foreign minister to replace Roberto Azevedo for the top job. She was singled out for recommendation out of five top candidates including Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea, Amina C. Mohamed of Kenya, Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Liam Fox of the United Kingdom. 

The recommendation for her nomination to lead the WTO has received overwhelming support from almost all 164-member states except the United States of America, which has indicated its preference for South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee as the best candidate to bring real reform to the body. Even though the nomination process has taken four long months to almost reach a consensus, the USA insists, even after the WTO announcement that it would continue to back the South Korean candidate. 

South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee and former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the last two candidates in the bid to become the World Trade Organization’s next director-general. (Yonhap News/Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s website)

The US Trade Representative, who advises President Donald Trump on trade policy, said the WTO “must be led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field”.

The US statement also claimed that Ms Yoo had “distinguished herself” as a trade expert and “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 a major reform.” 

The leadership vacuum was created at the WTO after its former head Roberto Azevedo stepped down in August – a year ahead of his time. Source: Africa6News