Nigeria’s former finance minister and a former managing director of the World Bank, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has emerged as the first female Director-General (DG) of the World Trade Organization(WTO). Diplomatic sources disclosed that official announcement to this effect would be formally made by New Zealand’s Ambassador Walker’s led WTO General Council.
Okonjo-Iweala emerged as the first African and the first female to attain the position of DG of WTO after defeating South Korea’s current trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee in a fierce battle for the coveted job on Monday night.
It was gathered that with the EU nations and the United States moving in the opposite direction, a move that triggered a deadlock between the two powerful geopolitical allies for the first time in many years, it was the decisive support of China that finally tipped the scales in Okonjo-Iweala’s favour.
The WTO’s Ambassador Walker’s led General Council, the overall organ responsible for picking the organization’s next DG, would officially announce the choice of Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, Dr Okonjo-Iweala today.
The race for the coveted job of DG of WTO has been fierce with Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s serving Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee, running neck-and-neck in the intense jostle and game of global diplomatic intrigues.
Indications had emerged that influential global trading countries including the United States(US), the European Union(EU) nations, China, Japan and the BRICS countries were strongly divided on who should be the candidate to lead the WTO.
High-level sources noted that it “took serious negotiations and prolonged talks to get China to go along with Nigeria with its decision to support Okonjo-Iweala.” China controls about 12.4% of global trade.
The influence of the United States on global trade is reportedly huge as well given that it single-handedly controls about 12% of global trade just as China holds about 12.4% of the global trade statistics.
Diplomatic sources hinted that East Asia countries with the exception of China went along with Myung-hee in preference. These include Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Mongolia and South Korea. Japan, a US ally is another strong international player in global trade with an estimated $705.7 billion worth of goods globally in 2020.
However, on Okonjo-Iweala’s side apart from the EU and 55 AU nations were 24 solid ACP countries that reportedly expressed a preference for her candidacy. The CP countries in this regard include Bahamas, Cuba, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica Republic, Dominica, Grenada, Fiji, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Timor-Lester, Papua New Guinea, etc.
A combination of this preponderance form about 79 block countries that solidly stood behind Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala. However, it was the quiet and deft diplomacy of China that sealed the deal in Okonjo-Iweala’s favour.
A top diplomat in Geneva disclosed in confidence: “China quietly changed the game. They said nothing openly but silently, China voted in Nigeria’s favour.”
Okonjo-Iweala, 66, served as Nigeria’s first female finance and later foreign minister, and has a 25-year career behind her as a development economist and international finance expert at the World Bank, eventually becoming its number two. She is also on Twitter’s board of directors and is a special envoy for the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 fight.
Thus, Okonjo-Iweala has successfully edged out South Korea’s Myung-hee. Yoo Myung-hee 53, is serving South Korea’s trade minister, following a long career in trade, diplomacy, law and foreign affairs. She had previously served as South Korea’s Foreign Affairs minister, among others. A lawyer and diplomat, Myung-hee holds degrees in Law, Public Policy and was called to the New York Bar.
Observers noted that one major implication of this is that China has somewhat stamped its feet on the global diplomatic and economic dynamics as an indispensable power, having deftly supported Okonjo-Iweala to victory as the US and EU purportedly cancelled themselves in a diplomatic deadlock.
Already, China is the biggest economy in the world in terms of P3, the Purchasing Power Parity. Thus, the consequence of this on the global scale, according to diplomats, is quite telling.