Nigerian president lobbies Europe over WTO job for countrywoman Okonjo-Iweala amid Trump’s opposition

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Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday held a video conference with Mr Charles Michel, President of the European Council and both discussed Europe’s support for Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to become the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

President Buhari is leading Nigeria’s charge for Okonjo-Iweala, the country’s former Minister of Finance, to emerge as the first black and female WTO DG.

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The Trump administration on Wednesday blocked the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the first African head of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

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A WTO nominations committee recommended the group’s 164 members appoint Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

But the Trump administration said it wants a South Korean woman Yoo Myung-hee.

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The Trump administration said it will back the South Korean minister, throwing Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s prospects into turmoil.

WHO spokesman Keith Rockwell was quoted as saying that just one member country did not support Ms Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment at a delegates’ meeting on Wednesday.

Reuters said Rockwell confirmed the objection came from the United States.

Rockwell told reporters there was likely going to be “frenzied activity” to secure a consensus for Ms Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment. She already has the support of the European Union.

Okonjo-Iweala, 66, is a former minister of finance in Nigeria with a 25-year career behind her as a development economist at the World Bank.

She also served as foreign minister in Nigetia and on Twitter’s board of directors, as well as chair of Gavi vaccine alliance and as a special envoy for the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 taskforce.

If confirmed, she would be replacing WTO chief Roberto Azevedo who stepped down a year early in August.

The WHO is currently being run by four deputies.

On Friday, President Buhari and the President of the European Council also discussed during the conference issues bordering on debt relief for Africa, EU-African relations and recharge of the Lake Chad, which has currently shrunk to less than one-third of its usual size, and throwing about 130 million people who depend on the Lake into dire straits.

Recharge of the Lake Chad is an issue the Nigerian President had vigorously canvassed at diverse global fora in recent time.

President Buhari expressed appreciation to Mr Michel for expected positive developments on the issues.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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