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WTO: Despite opposition from US, AU reiterates its full support for Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

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DESPITE the stiff opposition from the United States, the African Union has reiterated its full support for Nigeria’s candidate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, The African Union (AU), for the position of lDirector-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa and chairperson of the AU, who made the latest position known in a statement commended the WTO member states for following an agreed fair, robust, and transparent process in the election of the next Director-General of the WTO.

“His Excellency, Mr Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa and Chairperson of the African Union (AU), commends all WTO member states for following an agreed fair, robust, and transparent process in the election of the next Director-General of the WTO. This process, led by the Chair of the General Council assisted by two others to comprise a Troika, has been followed meticulously. The Troika has executed its task with diligence and fairness, allowing all member states to participate and express themselves fully on the candidates,” he said.

“Thus far member states have accepted the recommendations of the Troika at each stage of the process. This has brought us to the point where at the consultation meeting of the General Council held on 28 October 2020, the Chair of the General Council on behalf of the Troika reported that Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has emerged as the only candidate proposed for endorsement by the General Council on 9 November 2020. The AU is deeply appreciative of the supportive comments by member states on Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s excellent qualifications for the post.”

He expressed confidence and trust that the organisation would follow due process to ensure that Dr Okonjo-Iweala emerges WTO DG.

“The AU trusts that, in the same spirit, nothing will stand in the way of the WTO making the right decision for the organization. At a time when the credibility of the WTO is sorely tested, it is important that the organization honours its own rules and procedures. The African Union reiterates its full support for Dr Okonjo-Iweala.”

The ICIR had reported yesterday, how the United States said it is supporting Okonjo-Iweala’s rival, Yoo Myung-hee, Korean Trade Minister as the next WTO Director-General because she is “a bona fide trade expert who has distinguished herself during a 25-year career as a successful trade negotiator and trade policy maker.”

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The US also stated that Yoo Myung-hee has all the skills necessary to be an effective leader of the organization.

While stating that the WTO is facing a very difficult time because of the challenges confronting it, the US said it needs to be led by someone with trade experience to drive the reforms it needs.

“This is a very difficult time for the WTO and international trade.  There have been no multilateral tariff negotiations in 25 years, the dispute settlement system has gotten out of control, and too few members fulfill basic transparency obligations.  The WTO is badly in need of major reform.  It must be led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field,” the statement said.

However, the Nigerian government has said that it will continue to work with relevant stakeholders in the World Trade Organisation to realise Nigeria’s dream of leading the international trade body.

Vincent Ufuoma is a reporter with The ICIR. He is a lover of God, truth, knowledge and justice.

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