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Nigeria to push back on US rejection of WTO candidate

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Nigeria to push back on US rejection of WTO candidate

Photo by Reuters
Former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

30th October 2020

By: Reuters

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Nigeria will lobby for its candidate to head the World Trade Organization (WTO), the country's foreign ministry said in reaction to her last-minute rejection by Washington that threw the regulator's leadership selection process into confusion.

The United States on Wednesday spurned Nigerian former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala hours after a high-powered WTO panel recommended her to lead the global trade watchdog, teeing her up to become its first African and first woman head.

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"Nigeria will continue to engage relevant stakeholders to ensure that the lofty aspiration of her candidate to lead the World Trade Organization is realised," the country's foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday evening.

The ministry said the WTO's 164 member states were expected to adopt Okonjo-Iweala as the watchdog's director-general by consensus, but the United States was the sole country to oppose her, flouting the organisation's rules.

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The US Trade Representative's office later released a statement officially backing the only other remaining candidate, South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee, praising her as a successful trade negotiator with the skills needed to lead the trade body at a "very difficult time".

Next steps are uncertain, but a WTO spokesperson said there was likely to be "frenzied activity" before a November 9 meeting, less than a week after the US presidential election, to secure the required consensus from all 164 member states for Okonjo-Iweala.

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