The World Trade Organization logo outside its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Picture: REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE
The World Trade Organization logo outside its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Picture: REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE

Geneva  — The World Trade Organization (WTO) said on Tuesday that its top decision-making body, the General Council, will meet on February 15 to decide on the next director-general.

Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is widely expected to be chosen to fill a months-long leadership void at the global trade watchdog after Washington reversed its opposition last week. If confirmed by consensus, she will be the first woman and the first African to head it.

The 164-member body has been without a leader since Brazil's Roberto Azevedo left a year early in August. Supporters hope she can reinvigorate the institution, which is facing the biggest crisis in its 26-year history, with members unable to agree on trade deals and a reform programme.

The US administration of Donald Trump had criticised the WTO and paralysed some of its functions, including those of its top appeals body, which rules on trade disputes. It has also withheld support for Okonjo-Iweala. Washington has since backed the Nigerian after President Joe Biden took office.

In another positive step, South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee, the former rival who withdrew from the race last week, said in a tweet   she would “work closely with the new DG”, suggesting Seoul will not try to block Okonjo-Iweala.

The chair of the WTO's top decision-making body, David Walker, sent a communique to members on Monday saying he planned urgent consultations on the next director-general, according to two sources who saw the document.

 "[Okonjo-Iweala] will be announced at the next General Council,” said a delegate.

 “Hopefully we can now start to look at how to fix the WTO rather than how to pull it apart,” said a second delegate.

Reuters

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.