US Objection Delays Okonjo-Iweala’s Emergence As WTO DG

In this file photo taken on July 15, 2020 Nigerian former Foreign and Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala smiles during a press conference in Geneva, following her hearing before World Trade Organization 164 member states’ representatives, as part of the application process to head the WTO as Director-General.  PHOTO: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

 

Key World Trade Organisation (WTO) ambassadors on Wednesday tapped Nigeria’s nominee, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as the best pick to lead the organization, but she was opposed by the United State of America (USA), which said it supported South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee instead.

The ‘troika’ of ambassadors heading the WTO’s three main branches determined after four months of consultations with member states that Okonjo-Iweala was the most likely to obtain the consensus needed to take the top job, WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell told reporters.

The initial pool of eight candidates for the WTO’s top post had been whittled down to just two over two previous rounds of consultations, with only Okonjo-Iweala and South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee still in the race.

The global trade body is thus set to be led by a woman for the first time whichever of the two final candidates succeeds in their bid to follow Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down as WTO director-general in August, a year ahead of schedule.

The troika, led by New Zealand’s Ambassador David Walker, concluded the third round of consultations on Tuesday.

Its decision marks an important step paving the way for Okonjo-Iweala to become both the first woman and the first African to head the organisation.

But the WTO’s 164 member states still need to determine whether they will support her before their next General Council meeting on November 9.

Washington already said it was opposed to her candidacy, casting doubt on whether she can obtain the necessary full backing from member states.

In a statement late Wednesday, the US Trade Representative’s office expressed support for Yoo, calling her “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,” the statement said. “The WTO is badly in need of major reform. It must be led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field.”

 

– ‘Immensely humbled’ –

Rockwell said that 27 delegations had taken the floor during Wednesday’s meeting and only the United States “could not support the candidacy of Dr. Ngozi.”

Rockwell meanwhile stressed that Wednesday’s meeting “was never intended to make a final decision” on the next director-general since that is up to the General Council.

Okonjo-Iweala, 66, who served as Nigeria’s first female finance and foreign minister and has a 25-year career behind her as a development economist at the World Bank, welcomed the troika’s support.

“Dr. Ngozi is immensely humbled to receive the backing of the WTO’s selection committee today,” a spokesperson told AFP in an email. “She is honoured by the faith members have placed in her.”

Okonjo-Iweala voiced confidence earlier this month that she would be the successful candidate.

“I feel the wind behind my back,” she told a virtual press briefing after the 55-member African Union officially supported her.

 

‘Reform candidate’

Okonjo-Iweala, who 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, saw her candidacy get another boost this week when the EU threw its weight behind her.

She would certainly have her hands full in the new position.

Even before the Covid-19 crisis hit, the WTO was already grappling with stalled trade talks and struggling to curb tensions between the United States and China.

The global trade body has also faced relentless attacks from Washington, which has crippled the WTO dispute settlement appeal system and threatened to leave the organisation altogether.

Okonjo-Iweala said earlier this month that she had broad experience in championing reform and was the right person to help put the WTO back on track.

“I am a reform candidate and I think the WTO needs the reform credentials and skills now.”

AFP

European Union Backs Okonjo-Iweala For WTO Job

 

The European Union governments has thrown its support behind Nigeria’s candidate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for the position of the director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The EU also expressed support for Korea’s, Yoo Myung-hee.

Bloomberg reported that EU member-country envoys agreed on Monday in Brussels to endorse Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Yoo , South Korea’s trade chief, in their bids to become WTO director-general.

READ ALSO: WTO DG: Okonjo Iweala, Four Others Scale First Round Screening

Okonjo-Iweala and Myung-hee are part of the five contenders in the final round for the job position.

Others are Amina Mohamed of Kenya, Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Liam Fox of the United Kingdom.

The five candidates were chosen in September from eight others after due consultations by the WTO.

WTO plans to announce two finalists after October 6 and name a winner by November 7.

Okonjo-Iweala who is a one-time Minister of Finance in Nigeria also held a position as the Managing Director of the World Bank.

Her home country is also routing for her to clinch the WTO job.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier nominated Okonjo-Iweala for the WTO DG role with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) later backing her nomination.

WTO DG: Okonjo Iweala, Four Others Scale First Round Screening

In this file photo taken on September 19, 2016 former Finance Minster of Nigeria Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala looks on during the Opening Plenary Session: "Partnering for Global Prosperity," at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. Bryan R. Smith / AFP
A file photo of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. PHOTO: Bryan R. Smith / AFP

 

Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is still in the race of becoming the next Director-General World Trade Organisation (WTO) even after the international body reduced the number of candidates to five.

WTO in a Tweet on its official handle @wto on Friday announced that the five “candidates will be moving on for members’ further consideration in the next round of consultations, which resume on 24 September.”

 

 

Explaining further on its website, WTO said the five candidates were chosen from eight others after due consultations.

“The WTO took another step towards selecting its next Director-General today (18 September) as General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand and his two co-facilitators in the selection process disclosed which of the eight candidates had secured the broadest and deepest support from the WTO membership and should consequently advance to the next stage of the process.

“In consultations with Amb. Walker, Amb. Dacio Castillo of Honduras and Amb. Harald Aspelund of Iceland, WTO members indicated that the five candidates who should advance are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea, Amina C. Mohamed of Kenya, Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Liam Fox of the United Kingdom.”

General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand said WTO membership considers all the five candidates highly qualified and respected individuals.

Walker adds that the second phase of consultations will begin on September 24 and run until October 6.

Okonjo-Iweala is Nigeria’s former minister of finance and former Managing Director of the World Bank.

She has behind her the support of her country.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari had nominated Okonjo-Iweala for the WTO DG role with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) later backing her nomination.

Members House of Representatives in July 2020 also endorsed her, describing her as very qualified for the job of WTO DG.

W.T.O Calls For Sustainable Policies To Eradicate Trade Barriers

Nigeria Ratifies Trade Facilitation AgreementThe World Trade Organisation (W.T.O), is calling for sustained policies aimed at removing trade barriers in Nigeria.

Speaking at a meeting in Abuja, the head of the African Trade Policy at the W.T.O, Mr Jacques Degbelo, said the agency is working with the Federal Government to review the items on Nigeria’s import prohibition list.

According to him, removing barriers to trade in Nigeria would help improve the nation’s economy.

World Trade Organisation Asks Nigeria To Develop Non-oil Sector

Roberto-AzevedoThe World Trade Organisation (WTO) has advised Nigeria to develop its non-oil sector through the provision of subsidy for its agricultural sector.

The Director General of the WTO, Mr Roberto Azevedo, made the request on Monday at a meeting with members of the private sector in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital

Nigeria’s current economic mainstay is crude oil sales, with over 70 per cent of revenue coming from that sector.

Vision Of Trade Facilitation

Mr Azevedo said the initiative would boost the nation’s non-oil sector and provide a means of livelihood for the poor.

The WTO boss promised to support Nigeria to ensure that the government’s vision of trade facilitation was achieved.

Mr Azevedo also gave areas that should be of top priority by the country.

He said: “Around the world governments are struggling with a gloomy economic outlook and a range of challenges to delivering a return to strong growth. Nigeria is no exception.

“Indeed, the country faces a range of formidable challenges — such as security and governance issues — which have been compounded by the steep decline in oil prices, due largely to global over-supply. This is acting as a brake on economic growth in Nigeria. And there are few signs that the decline in commodity prices will be reversed in the near future”.

The WTO boss also stressed the need to diversify Nigeria’s economy to reduce dependence on the oil sector, which he said was a clear priority.

“Improving the conditions for trade and investment will be an essential part of the policy mix.

“By reducing barriers to trade and lowering the costs of doing business across borders we can help to attract investment, and provide access to new markets for Nigeria’s budding business community.

“And it is clear that there is huge potential here.

“Nigeria has well-developed financial, legal, and communications sectors and the second largest stock market in Africa.

“The manufacturing and services sectors have grown significantly in recent years, helping to rebalance the economy.

“Innovative start-ups are emerging rapidly — covering everything from fashion to software development.

“And, of course, Nigeria is also a real cultural force — with famous exports like Fela Kuti, Ben Okri or Nollywood — which is a whole industry itself.

“This creative force needs to be supported by an enabling business environment — which helps you to get out there and compete.

“And under Nigeria’s new leadership, I think the country can look to the future with a renewed sense of optimism,” Mr Azevedo stressed in his speech.

Business Friendly Environment

]Other issues that came up at the meeting were how the W.T.O. could help Nigeria in trade facilitation and the domestication of some of its policies for improved socio-economic development.

Giving the global economic realities and the slump in the prices of crude oil, the Director General of the World Trade Organisation believes it is the right time to harness the potentials of agriculture and international trade for economic prosperity.

The Minister for Industry Trade and Investment, Dr Okechukkwu Enelamah, assured investors of a business friendly environment.

The meeting was interactive, as members of the private sector tabled issues affecting them.

It is expected that the advice given at the meeting would assist the government in its efforts to develop the country.

Lesson From China: Nigeria Must Exit World Trade Organisation

Odilim Enwegbara, a Development Economist has advised that Nigeria should depart from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to enhance tariffs that will encourage exportation rather than importation in the country.

Speaking on a myriad of economic issues  regarding President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to China on Channels TV Business Morning, the Economist argued that the Nigerian economy will only develop if the nation is industrialised.

He also advocated for the export of home-made goods rather than allowing all sorts of importation by being a member of WTO.

Lesson From China

The Economist claimed that Nigeria should seek more foreign loans to industrialise its economy, noting that Chinese economy grew in the last three decades by loans it used develop its people and infrastructure.

Mr Enwegbara further urged the Nigerian government to embrace relations with the Chinese, stating that, “every country that wants to reduce pollution looks at Nigeria’s Bonny light crude because it contains less carbon.”

He suggested that federal government should set-up a China Nigeria Bi-lateral Forum to comprehensively study how the Chinese Socialist-capitalist market works.

Such lessons according to him should include how to ensure the sustained role of government in the nation’s key economic sector such as power, banking and natural resources, as he discouraged outright privatisation of public parastals.

He also argued that 50 percent of Nigeria’s reserve should be changed into the Chinese Yuan.

Patriotism, hard work and self-believe are lessons Nigerians must learn from the Chinese, he added.

Jonathan Reaffirms Commitment To Polio Eradication

President Goodluck Jonathan affirmed Thursday at the Presidential Villa that the Federal Government remains fully committed to achieving the total eradication of polio from Nigeria before the end of the tenure of the present administration in 2015.

A child receiving vaccination against polio

Speaking at an audience with a delegation of Rotary International led by the Chairman of the Rotary Foundation Trustees and past President of Rotary International, Wilfrid Wilkinson, President Jonathan said that the Federal Government will take all necessary action and work in close collaboration with its development partners and other stakeholders to overcome the challenges of ignorance, misinformation and security as well as the cultural and religious inhibitions that were currently hindering mass immunization against polio in parts of the country.

President Jonathan said that his administration was actively encouraging pro-polio immunization advocacy by respected religious leaders and traditional rulers as part of a multi-faceted strategy to ensure the success of the nationwide campaign.

“I promise you that we will continue to do our best because I do not want to hand over polio to the next administration,” President Jonathan told the delegation which also included Jonathan Majiyagbe, the first African President of Rotary International.

The leader of the delegation, Mr Wilkinson assured President Jonathan that Rotary International will continue to commit resources and personnel in support of the Federal Government’s efforts to eradicate polio from Nigeria.

President Jonathan had earlier received a Mexican Government delegation which was at the Presidential Villa to seek Nigeria’s support for Mexico’s candidate for the post of Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Welcoming the delegation, President Jonathan noted that the WTO had a very important role to play in global trade and economic development.

President Jonathan told the delegation which was led by Lourdes Aranda Bezaury, a Special Envoy of President Enrique Pena Nieto that Africa needed someone at the WTO’s helm who will positively address the continent’s concerns over the restrictions that currently hinder the export of African products to other part of the world.

Okonjo-Iweala not interested in World Trade Organisation job

The Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Thursday said she is not interested in replacing Pascal Lamy as head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) when the Frenchman steps down in a year’s time.

Nigeria's Finance Minister Okonjo-Iweala speaks during an interview in Abuja

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala left her role as managing director of the World Bank last year to become the most high-profile member of President Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet in an expanded version of a role she held between 2003-2006.

Less than a year into her post she ran to be president of the World Bank in April, losing out to Korean-born American health expert Jim Yong Kim. It was the first time in the Bank’s history that the United States’ hold on the job was challenged.

“For the avoidance of doubt, Dr Okonjo-Iweala is not a candidate for the leadership of the WTO. She has also not expressed any interest whatsoever in the position,” an emailed statement from the finance ministry said.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala’s opponents questioned her commitment to Nigeria after her unsuccessful World Bank bid, so showing interest in this post could have been politically damaging.

Emerging market countries will want to see one of their own in charge of the Geneva-based trading club, after the top jobs at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank went to a European and an American.

But there are already signs that developing nations will squabble over the identity of their candidate, meaning the race for the job overseeing negotiations to reform global farm subsidies, customs and trading rules is wide open.

Mr Lamy’s tenure at the WTO has been marked by Russia’s accession last month, and by disputes, such as a trans-Atlantic row over aircraft subsidies between Boeing and Airbus. Most of all, it has been overshadowed by the failure to agree on any reform of the world trade rules.

Formal nominations are not due until December, but trade diplomats are already assessing chances and gathering names.
So far, only two have said they want the job.

One is New Zealand’s Trade Minister Tim Groser and the other is Ghana’s former trade minister Alan Kyerematen, whose candidacy has been approved by the African Union (AU).

Iweala, Aganga named as potential replacements for outgoing WTO Head

The names of Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and Segun Aganga, both members of the Federal Cabinet and Economic Management Team are being bandied as potential candidates for the leadership of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Current WTO chief, Pascal Lamy, is set to step down in a year and the race to select  a successor is currently underway even as Emerging market countries seek to fill the slot after top jobs at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank went to a European and an American respectively.

“It’s a multi-dimensional chess game,” said one ambassador to the WTO. “As in any election, you have to choose the best moment to put your cards on the table.”

“It’s very early days. We look forward to a competitive process with a slate of very good candidates,” said the WTO’s chief spokesman Keith Rockwell.

Currently only two people have indicated interest for the top job. They include New Zealand Trade minister Tim Grosser and a Ghanaian former Trade minister Alan Kyerematen.

Sources say it does not yet appear if Africa has a consensus candidate and other African countries may nominate potential candidates.

Trade Minister Segun Aganga is said to have made his interest in the position known at a WTO conference last December and Finance Minister Okonjo Iweala is also said to be a potential candidate after losing the World Bank appointment earlier this year.

Her office is yet to comment on her intentions or otherwise.