WTO: European Parliament Backs Okonjo-Iweala, Says She Is Well-Equipped

The European Parliament has endorsed the candidacy of Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in her quest to lead the World Trade Organisation as Director-General.

The Parliament in a letter on Wednesday said it screened the two remaining candidates in the WTO DG race — Okonjo-Iweala and Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea — and was convinced that the Nigerian candidate has the ‘energy’ and is ‘well-equipped’ for the job.

In the letter signed by the Co-chairs of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO Steering Group, Bernd Lange and Sven Simon, the EP said it was satisfied with Okonjo-Iweala’s level of requirements and skills.

It, therefore, urged the European Union to express support for the candidacy of the former World Bank director.

The letter titled, ‘EP Exchanges of Views with WTO Director-General candidates’, partly read, “On 19 October, the EP’s Steering Group of the Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organisation organised exchanges of views with the two remaining candidates for the role of Director-General of the WTO.

“On this occasion, both candidates gave us an extensive account of their plans for the future of the organisation and the approach they would choose in order to deal with the crises that are currently threatening the multilateral trading system.

“Both candidates are extremely experienced, well qualified and knowledgeable, and have their own clear visions for the WTO’s future and priorities, and the Director-General’s role in shaping it, as well concerning the important role for parliamentarians in that future.

“During the discussions, we appreciated, in particular, the vision that Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala presented for tackling the substantial challenges the organisation is facing.

“Her assessment of the existing problems of the organisation revealed a deep understanding of the fault lines dividing the WTO’s membership.

“The points she set out for her first steps after being appointed to the position reveal a clear-eyed agenda, tackling head-on key topics such as special and differential treatment, industrial subsidies and dispute settlement reform while recognising the need for positive momentum through the conclusion of agreements on issues such as fisheries, e-commerce, and health.

“We also appreciated the energy with which she is likely to approach her new role. It appears to us that her personal approach is what is needed now to resolve the key questions at the organisation.

“Dr Okonjo-Iweala appears to be well-equipped for being the fair broker who could bring key players together and help them find the compromises that will be needed to resolve the WTO‘s complex set of challenges and the deep disagreements between its members.

“We, therefore, very much hope that the EU will be able to support Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy during the last round,” the parliament noted.

The PUNCH had earlier reported that 79 out of the 164 states that comprise the WTO endorsed Nigeria’s first female finance and foreign minister for the job.

The global trade body is set to be led by a woman for the first time whichever of the two candidates is successful in their bid to follow Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down as WTO director-general in August a year ahead of schedule.

Okonjo-Iweala, 66, who has a 25-year career behind her as a development economist at the World Bank, said it would be good if WTO could also boast its first African leader.

The initial pool of eight candidates for the WTO’s top post, which has been whittled down over two rounds of consultations, had included three Africans, and the AU had until now refrained from offering an official endorsement.

The third and final round of consultations seeking to establish consensus around one candidate is due to begin next week and end on October 27, with the announcement due in early November.


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