After emerging the new World Trade Organisation Director- General, Nigeria’s former Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has revealed that she was shocked that former President Donald Trump blocked her candidacy to head the largest trade body after two good interviews.
Okonjo-Iweala disclosed this during a monitored briefing held after the General Council of the WTO agreed by consensus to make the Nigerian its 7th D-G.
The Nigerian will hold the position over the four years from March 1, 2020 to August 25, 2025, according to WTO.
President Donald Trump had on October 28, 2020 blocked Okonjo-Iweala from being named the D-G.
Trump accused the WTO of mishandling global trade and preferred South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee, saying she could reform the bloc.
The setback comes after the Nigerian secured the consensus of 163 members to replace Brazil’s Roberto Azevêdo.
Consequently, the former World Bank Managing Director’s selection was stalled for over four months.
Responding to Trump’s gesture, she said, “I think I was quite surprised when that came at the decision making meeting because there had been no indication previously that there was any problem with the US.
“I had two very good interviews with the authorities in the administration. So it was a surprise but you know that is the way life works. When things happen, you take them in your stride and you move.”
The Nigerian is heading the trade bloc at a time of a health crisis needing both health and trade response to facilitate economic recovery and the 163 members believe she was more neutral to address the issues at the WTO.
The 66- year old WTO boss had her breakthrough with the Joe Biden administration offsetting the road block as he gave a nod to the consensus.
“And so it was absolutely wonderful when the Biden/ Harris administration broke that lock jam, joined the consensus and gave me such a strong endorsement to my candidacy and that has set a very good stage to join the other 163 members to endorse the candidacy, I think it is wonderful.”
Okonjo-Iweala went further to admit that being the first African and the first woman to head the WTO is an additional burden that requires big results.
African countries expect the new WTO boss to accelerate fair trade negotiations with other regions.
For the 164 member states, there are huge expectations that she will mediate to ensure that factors responsible for divergences on various negotiating issues are addressed and streamlined.
The D-G said, “I absolutely do feel an additional burden, I can’t lie about it that being the first woman and the first African one really has to perform.
“I have always said that these are wonderful things. It’s ground-breaking, all credit to members for electing me and making that history.
“But the bottom line is that I really have to make Africa and women proud, I really have to produce results and that is where my mind is at now. How do we work together with members to get results?”