Joe Biden urged to endorse Okonjo-Iweala as Korean minister Myung-hee drops WTO bid


South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee withdrew her bid to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO), leaving former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the only remaining candidate for the job and setting up a key decision by WTO members to approve her appointment.

Yoo decided after discussions with the US and other major nations and took various issues into account including the need to revitalize the multilateral organization, according to a statement from Korea’s trade ministry on Friday.

“There was no consensus,” Yoo said. “So we needed enough time for in-depth consultations with important members, including the US”

The withdrawal comes after dozens of former US government officials urged President Joe Biden to endorse Ngozi after the Trump administration blocked her selection in 2020, making the US and Korea the only holdouts favouring Yoo.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Nigeria to access vaccine from January – Ngozi Okonjo

That opposition was enough to halt the selection process because WTO decisions are made on the basis of a consensus of its members.

By quitting the race, Yoo would appear to be clearing Ngozi’s path to secure the leadership of the Geneva-based institution. But as the Biden administration forms its trade team, few clues have emerged publicly about whether it will lift US opposition to Ngozi’s candidacy.

The US mission at WTO headquarters didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment.

Ngozi is now set to become the first African and first female director-general in the 25-year history of the WTO.

She currently serves on Twitter’s board of directors, as a special envoy for the World Health Organisation’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) fight.


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