Geneva — The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) bid to select a new leader was plunged into uncertainty on Wednesday after the US rejected Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the global watchdog’s next director-general.
Three WTO ambassadors, charged with finding a successor to Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, had decided that Nigerian former finance minister Okonjo-Iweala should be the next chief as she had secured wide cross-regional backing.
Their decision, which awaits approval from WTO members, caps a more than four-month selection process involving intensive lobbying which saw her square up against South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee in the final round.
The head of the “troika” of ambassadors relayed their recommendation to WTO members at a meeting on Wednesday.
However, the US then said they did not back Okonjo-Iweala. The decision needs to be approved by consensus, meaning any WTO member could block her appointment.
“One delegation could not support the candidacy of Dr Ngozi and said they would continue to support South Korean minister Yoo. That delegation was the US,” WTO spokesperson Keith Rockwell told reporters at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva after the closed-door meeting.
The WTO has set a meeting to settle the matter for November 9, less than a week after US voters go to the polls for a presidential election. It was not immediately clear if the outcome of the vote would affect the US position on Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment