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The attempt by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala to become the Director General of the World Trade Organisation has continued to witness opposition from the US despite her being a US citizen.
The United States in an unprecedented move suggested that the process to find a new Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) needs to be reopened, reports say. US President, Donald Trump’s trade chief, Robert Lighthizer, in an interview with BBC News said that the WTO needs ‘someone with real experience in trade’.
The US had earlier opposed former World Bank economist and Nigeria’s candidate, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for the job. Okonjo-Iweala, 66, was Nigeria’s first female finance and foreign minister.
The US rejection of Okonjo-Iweala, despite her enjoying widespread support from other countries, has escalated one of the most pressing global trade issues Joe Biden will have to solve as US President.
The other finalist for one of the top jobs in international trade is South Korea’s Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, and the pair have been left in limbo for more than five weeks after the process of choosing a Director was put on hold after the US pulled out from supporting the process.
Lighthizer further confirmed that there was no way the Trump administration would be persuaded to back the Nigerian ex-finance minister in its remaining weeks in office.
Experts said the impasse at the WTO comes at a sensitive time for global trade, which has suffered because of the coronavirus pandemic. A new leader is seen as crucial for achieving meaningful change.
Lighthizer said the WTO, ‘is massively in need of reform’, adding that the US needs to ‘start making headway’ on that process.
Analysts say that the process of choosing a new leader will be delayed for several months in the case of failure to appoint a new Director-General before Joe Biden’s inauguration as US President on 20 January, because a new US trade team is put in place; one of them being Katherine Tai, who has been picked to lead the trade team, but needs Congressional approval.
Again, many say that Mr Biden may also embark on a widespread review of US trade policy, as dozens of industry groups are urging him to do. But he has said he doesn’t plan to immediately remove any of the tariffs Mr Trump imposed on China, and which the WTO has judged to be “inconsistent” with international trade rules.
The WTO plays a crucial role in brokering trade deals and upholding international trade law, however it has been without a leader since its former Director-General, Roberto Azevedo, resigned in August, saying someone else would be better placed to deliver the needed reforms.
His tenure was tainted by the US China trade war and President Trump’s widespread use of tariffs against China to achieve his goals on trade.
Lighthizer, speaking further said that the WTO has, ‘failed to function as a negotiating body’.
He also pinpoints that ‘massive reform’ is needed for the dispute-resolving Appellate Body, which he feels has evolved into a body creating a common law of trade, ‘taking away benefits’ that members had negotiated for ‘ and putting restraint on things that had been conceded’.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK