WTO: US BACKS OKONJO-IWEALA, CLEARS PATH FOR FIRST AFRICAN DG

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In an interesting turn of events, which saw the South Korean candidate, YooMyung-hee, announce her decision to drop out of the race and, a few hours later, saw the Biden administration finally declare its ‘strong support’ for Nigeria’s candidate, Dr.Okonjo-Iweala is a step closer to becoming the first woman and first African to occupy the prestigious seat.

In a decisive move indicative of a clear pathway for Okonjo-Iweala, YooMyung-hee, announced her decision to withdraw from the race. She stated that her decision came after discussions with the U.S. and other WTO member states, and also took various issues into account including the need to revitalize the multilateral organization.

According to Yoo, “To speed up the consensus building among the Member Countries on selecting a new Director-General, I have decided to renounce my candidacy through close cooperation with the United States, our strong ally.”

Yoo’s decision reassures that the new Biden administration would keep its election pledge to re-establish Washington’s support for multilateral institutions.

Although earlier on, while the Biden administration took steps to restore support for multilateral institutions, in what seemed like suspense, there were no indications which way it leaned and very few clues emerged publicly about whether it will lift U.S. opposition to Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy.

With the recent statement by the US Office of Trade Representative declaring Biden’s support for the candidacy of Okonjo-Iweala, all that has finally been put to rest.

In a separate development, the failure of the South Korean candidate to step down earlier has been criticised by many Member Countries.

However, looking on the bright side, Yoo’s withdrawal could help thaw the deadlocked race to lead the WTO, especially at a moment when the global trade body is struggling to surmount a series of crises. With no other candidate, Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment is expected to be a formality, ending a long battle against a strong field of candidates.

The soon-to-be Director-General of the global trade body has congratulated the South-Korean contender on a “hard fought campaign” and also expressed her gratitude for the support from the US. 

She vows to focus on rebuilding trust in the multilateral trade system by making it more ‘relevant, resilient and responsive’.

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