A key group of WTO ambassadors has proposed Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to lead the World Trade Organization, trade sources told Reuters on Wednesday, clearing a path for her to become the first woman and African to head the global watchdog in its 25-year history.
The proposal, which still needs full WTO approval, caps a more than four-month selection process involving intensive lobbying which saw her square up against South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee in the final round.
The recommendation of former finance minister Okonjo-Iweala was made by three WTO ambassadors, the so-called “troika”, after consulting with members in a series of closed-door meetings in Geneva as part of an intricate and opaque process that some have compared to a papal succession.
It still needs to be approved by consensus at a meeting of the WTO’s 164 members.
Meanwhile, the United States has told a meeting of the World Trade Organization on Wednesday that it does not back Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next WTO leader, despite cross-regional support for her, two sources at the meeting told Reuters.
The move could undermine the global trade body as it seeks to select a successor to director general Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down in August.
A key group of WTO ambassadors had proposed Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next chief, but any such decision requires a consensus among the 164 WTO members, meaning any of them could block her appointment.