The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) effort to name a new leader hit a new roadblock on Wednesday after the Trump administration said it won’t back the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to be the WTO’s next director-general.
The US could not support a consensus decision to appoint Okonjo-Iweala, Deputy US 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 US move will act as a veto that disrupts the process. A WTO official said work would continue to reach a consensus ahead of meeting of the General Council tentatively set for November 9.
The development came after Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former finance minister, received a key endorsement Wednesday from the WTO selection committee, which moved her a step closer to becoming the WTO’s first female director-general.
Shea said the US disagreed with the way in which the process was being carried out, according to the people.
If it’s not possible for the general council to agree on a
consensus candidate, WTO members can consider the possibility of recourse to a vote as a last resort by a procedure to be determined at that time. Such a development would be unprecedented for the WTO.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has pushed for South Korea’s candidate, Yoo Myung-hee, even though Okonjo-Iweala gained US citizenship in 2019.