WTO Leadership: Nigeria to repel US rejection against its candidate

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Nigeria will lobby for its candidate to head the World Trade Organization (WTO), the country’s foreign ministry said in response to the last-minute rejection of the Nigerian candidate by the US that threw the leadership selection process into chaos.

Recently, the United States turned down former Nigerian finance minister Ms. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, hours after she was recommended by a high-powered WTO panel to chair the global trade watchdog. She would have been the first African and first woman to lead the global organization.

“Nigeria will continue to engage relevant stakeholders to ensure that the lofty aspiration of her candidate to lead the World Trade Organization is realized,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

A source who is involved in the leadership race, however, cast doubt on the ambitions of Nigeria to put pressure on the US.

“They can push in the sense that they can get on the phone, try to mobilize support, but is that going to change the view in the US? I think not,” the source said.

The ministry reported that the 164 member states of the WTO were supposed to elect Okonjo-Iweala as the director-general of the organization by consensus, but the United States was the only country to oppose it, breaching the rules of the organization.

A statement officially supporting the only other remaining nominee, South Korean Trade Minister Ms. Yoo Myung-hee, was later issued by the US Trade Representative’s office, praising her as a capable trade negotiator with the skills necessary to lead the trade body at a “very difficult time.”

The next steps are unclear, but a WTO spokesman said that before a meeting on November 9, less than a week after the US presidential election, there was likely to be “frenzied activity” to achieve the necessary consensus for Okonjo-Iweala from all 164 member states.

Either ways, one of the two female candidates will replace Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down a year earlier than expected in August after the WTO was caught in the middle of an ongoing trade conflict between China and the United States.

The next WTO Director-General will take charge of an organization which has struggled to avoid conflicts of trade between Member States, especially the United States and China. She will also be required to deal with the coronavirus pandemic fallout, which has slammed trade and sparked a profound global recession.


Headquartered in Switzerland, the World Trade Organization is an intergovernmental organization that is concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations. It currently has 164 member countries.