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WTO panel recommends Okonjo-Iweala for DG seat amid U.S. dissent

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, PHOTO: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

• Job will keep FG on alert to trade pacts, says don
• It’s reward for excellence, says Ohanaeze, TUC

Effort of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to name a new leader hit a new brick wall yesterday after the President Donald Trump administration said it wouldn’t back the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to be WTO’s next director-general.

The United States could not support a consensus decision to appoint Okonjo-Iweala, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Dennis Shea, said during a meeting of WTO delegates in Geneva, according to three officials who were monitoring the proceedings.

All WTO decisions are taken by a consensus of its 164 members, which means the U.S. move will act as a veto to disrupt the process.

U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, has pushed for South Korea’s candidate, Yoo Myung-Hee, though Okonjo-Iweala gained U.S. citizenship in 2019.

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There are indications that her appointment will help build multilateral trade agenda for Nigeria, Prof. Omo-Ogun Ajayi, has said.

Ajayi, who is a professor of Agriculture Economics in the University of Calabar, Cross River State, further stressed that her appointment would also keep Nigerian government on its toes in adherence to bilateral trade agreements.

However, accolades have continued to pour in for her expected confirmation next month.

Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has lauded her recommendation by WTO, describing it as a reward for excellence.

President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, stated yesterday that her imminent victory was uplifting as it came at the right time Nigeria and her citizens were going through difficult times.

Also the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has congratulated Okonjo-Iweala, thanking the Federal Government, Nigerians and all the countries that voted in her favour.

TUC President, Quadri Olaleye, and the Secretary General, Musa-Lawal Ozigi, stated yesterday that Okonjo-Iweala, as a renowned global finance expert, economist and international development professional with decades of experience, WTO strongly believed she would bring her experience to bear, especially now that the world economy needed dynamic transformation.

In the same vein, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, Adejoke Orelope-Adfulire, has expressed hope that her emergence will help improve Africa’s trade position with the rest of the world, thereby helping to create wealth and reduce poverty in the continent.

The presidential aide, who said this in a message she personally signed to congratulate Okonjo-Iweala, noted that as an expert on trade, economics and governance, she is in position to help actualise the 2030 Agenda of ‘Leaving No One Behind,’ leveraging on her new office.

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