Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a step closer to becoming the first African and first woman to lead the World Trade Organization, after a South Korean rival withdrew on Friday following months of uncertainty over the body’s leadership.
Okonjo-Iweala faced opposition from the U.S. administration of former President Donald Trump after a WTO selection panel recommended her as chief in October. The decision required consensus.
South Korea’s trade minister Yoo Myung-hee’s withdrawal clears the way for Okonjo-Iweala to be director-general of the global trade watchdog. Okonjo-Iweala said she was looking forward to the conclusion of the race.
“There is vital work ahead to do together,” the former finance minister and World Bank executive said in a statement, saying she wanted to focus on needed reforms.
The embattled Geneva-based body has gone without a director-general since Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo quit a year early in August and his replacement must contend with a COVID-induced recession, U.S.-China tensions and rising protectionism.
In the more than three months since the selection panel recommended Okonjo-Iweala, Yoo had resisted mounting diplomatic pressure to bow out, until Friday.
“In order to promote the functions of WTO and in consideration of various factors, I have decided to withdraw my candidacy,” Yoo said in a statement.—AP