Nigeria’s former Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is in a good position to become the first African and first woman to head the World Trade Organisation, WTO.

A pointer to this stemmed from her endorsement by majority of the European Union member states, who voted in favour of her taking the top job, although no decision has been taken yet.

WTO members are choosing between Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee, 53, the first woman from her country to head the Ministry of Commerce.

During a closed-door meeting, most of the 27 EU member-states expressed their preference for the African candidate. Two other member states, Hungary and a Baltic state, however, refused to join the consensus.

A consensus will have to be found for the November 7 deadline.

The winner will succeed Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, who unexpectedly left the WTO at the end of August, a year early.

The next head of the institution will have to face the economic crisis and a trade war between the two leading world economic powers, China and the United States.

The EU described the planned reforms to be implemented by Okonjo-Iweala as “a key source for the legitimacy and accountability that is needed now more than ever to increase acceptance of international trade among the world’s population.”

Also the EU said her plan on the empowerment of women aligns with its global priorities.

It added, “We also appreciated the energy with which she is likely to approach her new role. It appears to us that her personal approach is what is needed now to resolve the key questions at the organisation.

“Dr Okonjo-Iweala appears to be well-equipped for being the fair broker who could bring key players together and help them find the compromises that will be needed to resolve the WTO‘s complex set of challenges and the deep disagreements between its members.

“We therefore very much hope that the EU will be able to support Dr Okonjo-Iweala‘s candidacy during the last round.”

Recall that the 55-member African Union had earlier declared its support for Okonjo-Iweala over Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea.


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