WTO DG: “I feel the wind behind my back”_ Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Friday was elated and confidence to scale the final huddle in her quest to lead the international World Trade body after all the countries in Africa supported her candidacy.

“I feel the wind behind my back,” she told a virtual press briefing after the 55-member African Union officially backed her leadership of WTO following the stepping down of Roberto Azevedo as WTO director-general in August a year ahead of schedule.

Dwelling on the rare opportunity now open for women to lead the world trade body, she said, “If that person is African and a woman, I think that is great. Because… neither an African nor a woman has led the organization.”

“The WTO at this time with the challenges it confronts needs a very competent Director General who is able to have the political reach and stature to be able to do reforms and deal at very high levels,” she said.

“It is not only having those skills, but having them all meet in one person at this juncture when the WTO needs that.”

She harped on the crisis currently rocking the WTO mentioning the relentless attacks from Washington, which has crippled the WTO dispute settlement appeal system and threatened to leave the organisation altogether.

In view of this development, she says the kind of person needed to steer the ship of the world body is reformer. “I am a reform candidate and I think the WTO needs the reform credentials and skills now.”  Okonjo-Iweala said she had broad experience in championing reform and was the right person to help put the WTO back on track.

The third and final round of consultations seeking to establish consensus around one candidate is due to begin next week and end on October 27, with the announcement due in early November.

Okonjo-Iweala said Friday she was thrilled to learn that “all African countries are getting behind me.”

In addition, she said, a group of Caribbean and Pacific states had also said they would back her, bringing the number of countries officially endorsing her candidacy to 79.

She also said she felt “optimistic” about her support in Latin America, and said she felt she had gotten “very good traction and good support” in Asia so far.

The European Union was meanwhile due to announce its preference “soon”, Concluding, she said “I feel quite confident that across the regions, we will be able to attract support.”

Meanwhile, it would be recalled that the race for the WTO top job initially started with 8 candidates. The second round reduced the number to 5 and from here to 2 women, Nigeria’s Dr Ngozi  Okonjo-Iweala and her now sole remaining opponent, Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea.


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