Nigeria: WTO DG - Panel Presents Okonjo-Iweala As Preferred Candidate

30 October 2020

The selection panel for the new Director General/ Chief Executive of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has formally submitted the name of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the Organisation's General Council for appointment to the position.

The panel, constituted from the WTO Ambassadors, recommended that Okonjo-Iweala is the candidate most likely to attract consensus of members as next Director-General of the global trade watchdog.

WTO's General Council Chair, Amb. David Walker of New Zealand and his two co-facilitators in the selection process, Amb. Dacio Castillo (Honduras) and Amb. Harald Aspelund (Iceland), told the organization's members yesterday that based on their consultations with all delegations the candidate best poised to attain consensus and become the 7th Director-General was Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria.

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The three WTO ambassadors, so-called "troika", recommended Okonjo-Iweala after consulting with members in a series of closed-door meetings in Geneva yesterday as part of an intricate and opaque process that some have compared to a papal succession.

Walker, in a statement yesterday, said: "She clearly carried the largest support by Members in the final round and she clearly enjoyed broad support from Members from all levels of development and all geographic regions and has done so throughout the process. I am therefore submitting the name of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the candidate most likely to attract consensus and recommending her appointment by the General Council as the next Director-General of the WTO until 31 August 2024."

He stressed that this was the assessment of the "troika" of facilitators and that a formal decision had to be taken by the members at a General Council meeting, which he has scheduled for 9 November.

The General Council is the WTO's pre-eminent decision making body, save for the Ministerial Conference which normally meets every two years.

But the assessment was challenged by the United States which said it would continue to support South Korea's trade minister Yoo Myung-hee and could not back the candidacy of Okonjo-Iweala.

The General Council chair explained that since the process to replace former Director-General Roberto Azevêdo began, the ultimate objective of this measured and clearly defined selection process has been to secure a consensus decision by members.

He praised the membership for their adherence to the guidelines and for their robust participation in the exercise.

"The entire membership remained fully engaged in and committed to this process. The facilitators and I are grateful for this consistently very positive response. Throughout the process it has been clear that all members have attached the greatest importance to this appointment," said Walker.

He paid tribute to all eight of the candidates who participated in the DG selection process and in particular to Yoo Myung-hee who had advanced to the third round in this process.

"Ms Yoo has vast experience which she has acquired in a number of leading positions and her outstanding qualifications are highly valued by all Members," he said.

The General Council agreed on 31 July that there would be three stages of consultations held over a two-month period commencing on 7 September. During these confidential consultations, the field of candidates was narrowed from eight to five and then two.

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