Nigeria’s former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has received the backing of 27 European Union member states in her bid to become the first African and first female director-general of the World Trade Organisation.
The EU member states are France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
Earlier, the 55-member African Union had officially supported the former World Bank director over her sole remaining opponent, Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea.
However, this latest support for Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy brings the number of countries officially endorsing her to 106 out of the 164 states that comprise the WTO.
The European Parliament endorsed Okonjo-Iweala to head the WTO, saying she is well-equipped and the Parliament had subsequently written the EU to support the Nigerian candidate.
When EU member states convened on Monday, they failed to find a consensus around the choice but the EU representatives reconvened and agreed to back Okonjo-Iweala.
Although, the WTO’s consultation process ends today and the new leader is expected to be named in November but an EU official said the EU will publicly announce its support for the 66-year-old economist today.
The final winner between the two women will replace Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo and former director-general of the 25-year-old trade organization.
If Okonjo-Iweala is confirmed, she will join the WTO at a difficult time, with the world facing a deep post-coronavirus recession and a crisis of confidence in free trade and globalization.
A trade war is brewing between the world’s anchor economies -the United States and China – and the European Union will see G7 member Britain leave its single market at the end of the year.