The European Union (EU) will back Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
A report published by the Financial Times said the EU’s backing of Okonjo-Iweala would boost the Nigerian’s frontrunner status.
The report said ambassadors from the EU’s 27 member states confirmed that the bloc would throw its weight behind Okonjo-Iweala, following discussions among EU leaders during their summit in Brussels last week.
Okonjo-Iweala, a former finance minister, is facing off against South Korea’s trade minister, Yoo Myung-hee, in the final round of voting at the WTO.
The winner is expected to be declared early next month.
Financial Times reported that an EU official said the decision to back Okonjo-Iweala, who would be the first WTO chief from Africa, was “a strong signal to reinforce the multilateral order”, as well as “a clear signal towards Africa and a sign of mutual trust”.
“Policymakers, including Valdis Dombrovskis, EU trade commissioner, Peter Altmaier, German economy minister, and Charles Michel, EU Council president, have sought to forge a common EU stance for the final voting round.
“The EU itself had decided not to field a candidate of its own,” the report said.
An EU diplomat said that, during the internal deliberations, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala had been backed by France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands, among others.
Ms. Yoo found considerable support among EU governments in central and eastern Europe, including the Baltic states.
The EU decision leaves Ms. Yoo facing an uphill struggle. Japan and China are expected to exercise a de facto veto against her because of political tensions with Seoul.
Recently, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Mariam Katagum, called on Heads of State Delegations to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to endorse Okonjo-Iweala on the strength of her antecedents, competence and statement to the General Council.
In a statement issued in her capacity as Chairperson of the Okonjo-Iweala Campaign Team, Ambassador Katagum, charged Heads of Delegations to read again the statement of intent and agenda submitted by Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, describing the former Nigerian Minister of Finance as “the best choice for the job”.
Similarly, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, has expressed optimism that Okonjo-Iweala would emerge as the next Director-General of the WTO.
Adebayo welcomed the EU support for Dr. Okonjo Iweala and said it signifies a high probability of her clinching the coveted position of Director-General of the WTO.
Presidents of West African countries had earlier endorsed the former Finance Minister, who was nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari for the WTO job based on her sterling qualities.