It’s no longer news that the United States has rejected the emergence of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the consensus candidate to lead the WTO.
One of the major reasons given by the US for supporting South Korean trade minister, Yoo Myung-hee, to become the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation is because she is a “trade expert”.
US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, while giving reasons for opposing Okonjo-Iweala, said WTO needs “someone with real, hands-on experience in the field”.
In a statement issued by the office of the US trade representative, Yoo Myung-hee is a successful trade negotiator.
It reads: “The United States supports the selection of Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee as the next WTO Director-General,” the USTR, led by Lighthizer, said.
“Minister Yoo is a bona fide trade expert who has distinguished herself during a 25-year career as a successful trade negotiator and trade policymaker. She has all the skills necessary to be an effective leader of the organization.
“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.”
Sometime in July, Okonjo-Iweala, while addressing the WTO had explained that she is a trade expert and has all the needed skills to brand her an expert.
She said: “I am a development economist and you cannot do that without looking at trade. Trade is a central part of development. So, I have been doing it. My whole career at the World Bank, I was working on trade policy reform in middle and low-income countries at the bank.
“As finance minister, the customs service in my country reported to me. And that is all about trade facilitation. I helped my country’s negotiation with my trade minister on the ECOWAS common external tariffs. I don’t know how much more trade you can have than that.
“So those who say I don’t have trade, they are mistaken. I think the qualities I have are even better, because I combine development economics with trade knowledge, along with finance, and you need those combinations of skills to lead the WTO. I think I have the skills that are needed. I am a trade person.”
Her candidacy has received a boost after the EU threw its weight behind her to emerge a winner.
Only time will tell what the outcome will eventually be. if she pulls through she would be the first African to lead the global trade body in its 25-year history.
Okonjo-Iweala, also serves on Twitter’s board of directors, as chair of the GAVI vaccine alliance, and as a special envoy for the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 fight, she was also a former finance minister in Nigeria.