By Yinka Kolawole
The coast seems to be clear for Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to become the next Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) following the withdrawal of South Korean Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee, from the race on Friday.
Following Yoo’s decision to quit the race, Okonjo-Iweala now remains the only candidate for the job, which requires the approval of WTO members to confirm her appointment.
A statement from Korea’s trade ministry noted that Yoo decided to quit the race after discussions with the U.S. and other major nations, and took various issues into account, including the need to revitalize the multilateral organization.
She stated: “There was no consensus. So we needed enough time for in-depth consultations with important members, including the U.S.”
The withdrawal, according to sources, comes after dozens of former U.S. government officials urged President Joe Biden to endorse Okonjo-Iweala after the Trump administration blocked her selection in 2020, making the U.S. and Korea the only holdouts favouring Yoo.
That opposition was enough to halt the selection process because WTO decisions are made on the basis of a consensus of its members.
The 66-year-old Nigerian economist, who is also a U.S. citizen, emerged as the front-runner for the WTO director-general post last year.
If the U.S., Korea and the WTO’s other 162 members join a consensus to appoint Okonjo-Iweala, WTO can announce a meeting to confirm her appointment within a matter of days.
If confirmed, Okonjo-Iweala would be the first woman and the first African to lead the organization in its 25-year history.