WTO postpones meeting to select next Director-General

WTO postponed a general council meeting scheduled on Monday where members were expected to discuss the appointment of the next Director-General, citing reasons including “health situation and current events.”

The candidate best suited to gain consensus and occupy this position, based on the consultation with all delegations, was Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria. But the assessment was challenged by the Trump administration, backing South Korea’s Minister for Trade, Yoo Myung-hee for the same position. Since early October Yoo and Okonjo-Iweala have been in an ongoing battle whose fate shall decide the next Director-General of WTO. The U.S. unilaterally continued with their opposition despite the fact that the WTO selection committee firmly established that Okonji-Iweala “clearly carried the largest support by members” and “clearly enjoyed broad support from members from all levels of development and from all geographic regions.” This move has caused instability, because all of WTO’s decisions are made by a consensus of its 164 members, meaning even 1 opposition can halt the entire decision-making.

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If selected, Okonjo-Iweala would become the first woman and African to head the global trade watchdog in its 25-year history. The WTO’s was left with a leadership vacuum, after its former chief Roberto Azevedo resigned from official duties on August 31, a year before the end of his official term. Currently the organisation is being managed by four deputies.