Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Makes Final Shortlist In WTO leadership Bid

Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has reportedly made the final shortlist in the World Trade Organization (WTO) leadership bid.

The World Trade Organization is due to announce on Thursday the final two candidates from a shortlist of five to lead the agency.

Reports suggest that the final two are both women – Okonjo-Iweala and Yoo Myung-he of South Korea.

The WTO has never been led by a woman or an African. The hope is that having an African head the organisation could boost the continent’s trade, which has stagnated at 2% to 3% of the global average.

The successful candidate is expected to be announced next month.

The new director general will have to deal with the US-China trade dispute and increased global protectionism.

President Donald Trump’s administration has also blocked the appointment of judges to the WTO’s main dispute body, badly impairing one of the organisation’s key functions.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Mariam Katagum has called on Heads of State Delegations to the WTO to endorse Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the selection exercises intensifies.

Katagum,in a statement issued on Thursday as Chairperson of the Okonjo-Uweala Campaign Team, urged that the former Nigeria’s Minister of Finance be endorsed based on her antecedence, competence and statement to the General Council.

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She charged Heads of Delegations to read again the statement of intent and agenda submitted by Okonjo-Iweala, describing the former Nigerian Minister of Finance as “the best choice for the job”.

She commended the series of endorsements of Dr Iweala’s candidacy from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to the European Union (EU).

She said: “These are excellent testimonies of her eminent qualification for the top job as the WTO of today needs a DG with multiple skills to revive the challenged spirit of trade liberalisation world wide.

“The WTO faces a lot of problems currently, and confronting these challenges necessarily requires building trust among the membership especially as the problems are not solely of a technical nature.

“Only a DG with the requisite political and negotiating skills coupled with multilateral experience can ensure deep engagement of the Members in order to restore trust and build a truly efficient organisation.”

“Dr Iweala’s qualities and experience in managing multilateral issues, in trade facilitation and negotiation as well as brokering deals and agreements with high political stakes, puts her in good standing.

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“Her suitability is a product of past and present experience garnered from her Vice Presidency at the World Bank; Finance Ministry portfolio in Nigeria; and her other current global assignments.

Katagum, Nigeria’s former envoy, Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, further noted that with the effect of Covid-19 pandemic on global economy, a person of Okonjo-Iweala standing is required to steer the ship of the WTO.

“When all indices are taken into consideration, the WTO indeed needs an internationalist, a multilateralist, a skilled and tested negotiator – all traits the General Council can find in the Nigerian and ECOWAS nominee.

“I believe she brings exactly the right combination of skills and experience (public sector, international civil society, multilateral organisations and worldwide network of contacts) needed to lead this organisation in the future,” she added.

The World Trade Organisation members have selected Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee as two final candidates to advance to the final round in the race to lead the Geneva-based trade body.

WTO General Council Chairman David Walker will formally announce the results to the institution’s delegates on October 8 in Geneva.

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By implication, three candidates have been edged out of the race by the selected duo.

Three candidates, UK’s Liam Fox, Kenya’s Amina Jibril, and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri, have been edged out of the race as they did not secure enough support in the second round of consultations.

The third and final phase of the consultation process will begin later this month and run until Nov. 6, after which the WTO will endeavour to name a consensus winner of the race.

At the end of the selection exercises, if the WTO members are unable to select a leader by consensus, a vote requiring a qualified majority could be held as a last resort.

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