The United States has explained why it is against the election of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
In a statement issued by the office of the US trade representative on Wednesday, the world power said the WTO is in dire need of reform and must be “led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field”.
“The United States supports the selection of Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee as the next WTO Director-General,” the USTR, led by Robert Lighthizer.
“Minister Yoo is a tested trade expert who has distinguished herself during a 25-year career as a successful trade negotiator and policy maker. 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.”
The argument against Okonjo-Iweala has always been that she has no direct trade experience. But while addressing the WTO in July, the former minister of finance in Nigeria refuted the claim.
“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,” she said.
“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 experience are only 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 combination of skills to lead the WTO. I think I have the skills that are needed. I am a trade person.”
On Wednesday, Okonjo-Iweala had won the popular vote to become the next DG and had the nod of the three ambassadors saddled with the responsibility of picking the next leader of the trade body.
But at a WTO delegates meeting to discuss the appointment, the US expressed opposition to her election — the US was the only country opposing her election.
Keith Rockwell, the spokesman of the WTO, said just one member country did not support Okonjo-Iweala.
“All of the delegations that expressed their views today expressed very strong support for the outcome, except for one,” he said.
The WTO reconvenes on November 9, 2020 after the US election to decide who becomes the next DG.