Biden ends deadlock over first African and first woman to lead WTO

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·1 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Biden administration has ended the deadlock over the next head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) by expressing its "strong support" for Nigeria's ex-finance minister.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was frontrunner for the role until the Trump administration last October said it wanted another woman, South Korea's Yoo Myung-hee.

Ms Yoo has now withdrawn her candidacy.

If confirmed in the role, Dr Okonjo-Iweala would be the first woman and the first African to lead the WTO.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala on Friday praised her rival for the post and said: "There is vital work ahead to do together."

Related: What foreign policy challenges is the US facing?

A WTO nominations committee in October recommended its 164 members appoint Dr Okonjo-Iweala as a replacement to outgoing chief Roberto Azevedo; a spokesman at the time said all had approved the appointment "except for one".

President Donald Trump - who had described the WTO as "horrible" and biased towards China - wanted Ms Yoo, South Korea's trade minister.

Ms Yoo on Friday said her decision to withdraw her candidacy was made in "close consultation" with the US. She said: "South Korea will actively contribute to reaching consensus for the next WTO chief and co-operate with her and participate in the WTO reform process."

The White House congratulated Ms Yoo on her "strong campaign" for the position and for being a "traiblazer" as South Korea's first female trade minister.

In a statement, it said the "US stands ready to engage in the next phase of the WTO process for reaching a consensus decision on the WTO Director General".