Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is set to become the new director-general of the World Trade Organization.
According to Reuters, a key group of WTO ambassadors proposed Okonjo-Iweala to lead the trade organization on Wednesday, clearing a path for her to become the first woman and African to head the global watchdog in its 25-year history.
The official announcement is, however, expected to be made by the WTO anytime from now.
Efforts to reach Okonjo Iweala’s spokesperson, Paul Nwabuikwu, for comments proved abortive as his line rang out. He was also yet to respond to text messages sent to his line as of the time of filing this report.
The 55-member African Union had also supported the former Nigerian finance minister over her sole remaining opponent, Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea.
Okonjo-Iweala had also won the goodwill of a group of Caribbean and Pacific States as well as others from Asia.
The final winner between the two women will replace Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo and former director-general of the WTO.
The initial pool of eight candidates for the WTO’s top post, which has been whittled down over two rounds of consultations, had included three Africans – Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya.
If Okonjo-Iweala is confirmed, she will join the WTO at a difficult time, with the world facing a deep post-coronavirus recession and a crisis of confidence in free trade and globalisation.
A trade war is brewing between the world’s anchor economies -the United States and China – and the European Union will see G7 member Britain leave its single market at the end of the year.
US President Donald Trump faces a tough battle for re-election but under his leadership, Washington’s relationship with the WTO has suffered.
His administration has appealed a WTO ruling that faulted US duties imposed on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese goods.
Usually, the WTO Appellate Body would have three months to rule on any appeals filed.
But that process has been complicated since the WTO Appellate Body – also known as the supreme court of world trade – stopped functioning last December as the US blocked the appointment of new judges to the panel.