…It is now between US against the world-Expert

 At a time that the world was sure that Nigeria’s former minister of finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had emerged as the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the US, under the leadership of President Donald Trump has thrown in a spoiler spanner on the wheel by opposing her candidature.

Before she got to the current stage of being the favourite of nearly all the major countries and economic blocks that make up the Organisation, Iweala had carried out extensive campaigns across the world, parading very credible credentials and transparent service records with lots of economic experience.

In addition, the former Finance Minister got unflinching support from the home government of President Muhammadu Buhari who also mobilsed African countries and leaders to support her aspiration.

Apart from Africa, the Nigerian candidate got topmost endorsements from other countries across other continents including the European Union, China, Japan and France, among others.  and key stakeholders within WTO itself, Okonjo-Iweala’s potential appointment is currently being vetoed by opposition from the Trump administration.

It was for those reasons that congratulatory massages began to pour in on Wednesday when it was clearly certain she has emerged the new WTO boss. The trade body was expected to make formal announcement of her emergence by 3pm Nigerian time when out of the blues a bang came- that Trump’s US administration had filed in formal opposition to her candidature.

The US trade representatives said they were against Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy because of displeasure with how the selection process has been carried out.

According to a report by Bloomberg the US stance represents a major complication given decisions at the 164-member global trade body are typically based on a consensus. Okonjo-Iweala’s sole opponent for WTO director-general is South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee, who was the country’s first female trade minister.

“The complication to Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment is the latest impasse engineered by the Trump White House at the World Trade Organization. The administration has blocked the appointment of judges to the appellate body of the WTO, effectively stopping it from functioning and hearing appeals on global trade disputes.

“With talks expected between member states expected to continue, an appointment for Okonjo-Iweala, who has run a very high-profile campaign for the role, will have to wait until the Nov. 9 when the body’s general council is expected to meet. In the event that the member nations do not achieve a consensus, the selection of a new WTO director-general will be done through a vote as a last resort—a first for the global trade body.

“Recourse to a vote for the appointment of a director-general shall be understood to be an exceptional departure from the customary practice of decision-making by consensus, and shall not establish any precedent for such recourse in respect of any future decisions in the WTO,” the body says about its selection process.

“But the looming US elections also offer another dynamic to this process as it remains unclear how a Trump loss, for instance, could affect the administration’s last-minute plans and decisions.

“The challenge is that the Trump team is still going to be in power until mid January [if he loses] and there’s no indication that they’re going to embrace a lame-duck presidency,” says Judd Devermont, director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“On the contrary, the Trump administration will drive harder than ever to push their agenda in the remaining months if they’re defeated at the ballot box,” the report said.

But for us as Nigerians, what is the possible way out for Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to ensure she finally clinch the position.

A top public officer in the ministry of foreign affairs who did not want to be mentioned told African Community News that so far, there is nothing much Nigeria can do than to wait until November 9, 2020 when a final decision is to be taken.

According to him, it is now far more than anything can do, adding that it is a battle between the United States and the world.

“Nigeria has done its bit. Dr. Oknjo Iweala has proved her capacity and was accepted by almost the entire world including the super powers. It is now between the US against the world. What would happen is that on November 9, if no consensus was reached with the US, WTO members will have to vote one after the other to determine, who, between Okonjo-Iweala and the South Korean candidate, Yoo Myung-hee, would take th position,” he said.

On why the US would be against Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian candidate who is also an American citizen, he said China must be the issue.

“The Trump administration has been at loggerhead with Chinese government over trade and other international affairs. The situation was worsened at the peak of coronavirus debate. The US alleged that the Director General of the World Health Organisation, WHO, was in bed with China which supported his candidacy, and accused WHO of not sanctioning China for hoarding information on the virus until it became late.

“Therefore, the Trump administration may be suspecting that China’s support for the Nigeriuan candidate may end the same way-China controlling WTO which is a critical organization, maybe more than WHO.

“The US may be suspecting that Okonjo Iweala may be another pawn in the hands of China and that is a legitimate fear for the US,” he said, adding that the US has not forgotten her experience a few weeks ago, when despite its opposition of Akinwumi Adesina, the Nigerian was returned as the President of the African Development Bank, AfDB.


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