Following the early departure of the head of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the selection process to choose a new DG has been set in motion. The final stage of two months of consultations has now been reached. A consensus should have formed around one of the two finalists, the Nigerian Ngozi, the preferred candidate of the member states. But the United States refuses to play ball and is blocking the election.
Representatives of the 164 member states of the World Trade Organization met in the Salle William Rappard on the afternoon of October 28. The President of the General Council, Ambassador David Walker of New Zealand, flanked by his two co-facilitators, Ambassadors Dacio Castillo of Honduras and Harald Aspelund of Iceland, revealed the name of the candidate who had received the broadest support. Based on consultations with all the delegations over the past three weeks, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Nigerian Finance Minister and Managing Director of the World Bank, emerged as the candidate with more support than her rival, South Korea's current Minister of Trade and Industry, Yoo Myung-hee.
Blocking by the United States
Through its representative to the organization, Ambassador Dennis Shea, the United States made it known that it was vetoing the African candidate. According to the Americans, the South Korean is an accomplished trade negotiator with the necessary skills to lead the trade body at a "very difficult time". The blocking of the election process for the WTO's 7th Director General is just another move by Washington in its assault on the institution. For several months now, the United States has been blocking the appointment of judges to the dispute settlement system's appeals tribunal, provoking one of the WTO's most serious institutional crises. President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to leave the organization.
A new General Council meeting is scheduled for November 9, a few days after the US presidential election. Many are hopeful that a solution can be found by then. In 1999, New Zealand's Mike Moore and Thailand's Supachai Panitchpakdi were unable to break the tie. The member states decided to split the four-year term into two two-year periods. Okonjo-Iweala, currently Chairman of the Board of the GAVI Alliance for Vaccines, said the WTO should play a role in helping the poorest countries gain access to COVID-19 medicines and vaccines.