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WTO: Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala gets European Union support

EU member-country envoys agreed to endorse Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Yoo Myung-hee in their bids to become DG of WTO.

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WTO, Okonjo-Iweala joins South Africa's presidential economic advisory council as nation struggles with recession

The European Union says it will support Nigeria’s Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the South Korean candidate Yoo Myung-hee for the role of Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

This was disclosed by Bloomberg on Monday after a source at the EU revealed the candidates the Union would support, as the date to select a leader comes to a final chapter.

READ: Kenyan Candidate emerges as strong contender to Iweala for WTO

Nairametrics had reported last week that the remaining five candidates, who are from the initial pool of eight candidates that were shortlisted, will be further pruned down to just two candidates after the second round of elimination.

The five remaining candidates include Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria), Liam Fox (UK), Amina Chawahir Mohamed Jibril (Kenya), Yoo Myung-hee (South Korea), and Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri ( Saudi Arabia).

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READ: House of Reps speaker to meet Ghanaian parliament over trade issues

Nairametrics had earlier reported that three candidates who were running for the WTO top job had fallen out of the race after the first round of the elimination process thereby leaving only five candidates out of the initial eight.

EU member-country envoys agreed on Monday in Brussels to endorse Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former finance minister, and Yoo Myung-hee, South Korea’s trade chief, in their bids to become WTO director-general, according to an official familiar with the matter.

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READ: Otedola, Alakija, Okonjo-Iweala, others make list of 100 most reputable Africans

2 finalists would be announced on October 6th and the new Director-General would be announced on the 7th of November.

Okonjo-Iweala and the 4 other candidates will present themselves to the members of the global trade body for voting in the hopes of securing the highest number of votes to succeed the current DG, Mr. Roberto Azevêdo.

READ: Union Bank announces closed period as it readies to release H1 2020 result

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Economy & Politics

Breaking: Senatorial, State House of Assembly bye-elections postponed – INEC

Senatorial and State House of Assembly bye-elections slated to hold on October 31 in 11 states have been postponed by INEC.

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Nigeria's election delay

The 6 Senatorial and 9 State House of Assembly bye-elections slated to hold on October 31 in 11 states of the Federation has been postponed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The vacancies were as a result of death and resignation of previous members.

According to the statement issued by its National Commissioner & Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye Esq., INEC said the decision was taken after meeting with the 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on Thursday.

Though the commission did not categorically state the reason for the postponement, feelers are that it may not be unconnected with the raging #EndSARS protests across the nation.

 

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Economy & Politics

Breaking: Some Nigerians mistook promptness of FG response as sign of weakness – Buhari

President Buhari has said that FG’s promptness to consent to the demands of the protesters was taken as a sign of weakness.

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Buhari says large proportions of new COVID-19 infections now occur in communities

President Muhammadu Buhari has pointed out that the promptness with which the Federal Government acted in meeting the demands of the #EndSARS protesters seemed to have been misconstrued as a sign of weakness and twisted by some for their selfish unpatriotic interests.

This was disclosed by the president in his national broadcast on Thursday, October 22, 2020, on the current widespread violence which has engulfed the country following the protest against police brutality and extrajudicial killings.

The president said that the government listened to the protesters and after evaluating their five-point demands, they were accepted and some of them implemented, which includes the disbandment of SARS.

In his address to Nigerians, President Buhari said, “As a democratic government, we listened to, and carefully evaluated the five-point demands of the protesters. And, having accepted them, we immediately scrapped SARS and put measures in place to address the other demands of our youth.

“On approving the termination of SARS, I already made it clear that it was in line with our commitment to the implementation of extensive Police reforms.

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“Sadly, the promptness with which we have acted seemed to have been misconstrued as a sign of weakness and twisted by some for their selfish unpatriotic interests.

The president said the actions of these elements has caused serious violence which has led to the loss of human lives, attack on correctional facilities, destruction and vandalization of public and private properties, attack on the palace of Oba of Lagos, invasion of International Airport and so on.

While acknowledging that the choice to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental right of every citizen as enshrined in the constitution, the president pointed out that this right to protest also imposes on the demonstrators the responsibility to respect the rights of other citizens and the necessity to operate within the law.

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Economy & Politics

WTO DG: US, EU divided over Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo

The US and EU are divided over the choice between Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo for the WTO DG.

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WTO DG: US, EU divided over Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo

The United States and Europe are heading for a dispute over which of the candidates to support for the top position in World Trade Organization (WTO), as the selection of the first woman to head the global trade organization enters a pivotal phase.

According to a report from Bloomberg, the EU is inclined to support Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and may sign off on that position Wednesday, whereas the Trump administration is leaning towards South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee. However, China’s preference and those of other major economies like Brazil and India remain unclear.

READ: WTO: Selection of new DG might be tied to the upcoming US presidential election

The new DG, WTO is expected to be announced in November to replace Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down from the job at the end of August – a year before his term ended. He was the sixth consecutive man to lead the 25-year-old organization.

Rufus Yerxa, former deputy DG of the WTO from 2002 to 2013 and now heads the National Foreign Trade Council, a Washington-based business group representing US companies said, “We shouldn’t dismiss the possibility that this could end in a deadlock and that an outcome will have to wait for the U.S. election and what the next administration decides to do.’

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READ: How the United States plans to control the African Development Bank

While few countries are publicly saying which of the two women they support, the process requires a consensus of the WTO’s 164 members; meaning a single nation could block either Yoo or Okonjo-Iweala. Muddling the picture even further are trading alliances from Africa to Asia strained by three years of tariff wars and protectionist sentiment, only heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For instance, South Korea’s Yoo has struggled to secure support from Japan, a trading partner and rival of South Korea. Deteriorating trade relations between the two export powerhouses has negatively impacted on Yoo’s campaign initially and remain an important consideration in the last phase of the race.

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READ: Standard Chartered partners IFC to offer $1 billion credit facility

In an interview on Friday, Yoo acknowledged that she might have an uphill battle. She said, “Everybody loves an underdog story. I believe I have earned members’ trust through my hard work, sweat and perseverance, and sincerity. I will continue to do that.”

The EU played a critical role in the selection process for the previous round when the 27-nation bloc selected both Yoo and Okonjo-Iweala to be its preferred candidates for the final stage. That effectively sank the candidacy of Kenya’s Amina Mohamed, who had been viewed as an early front-runner in the race.

Since the shortlist was trimmed to two earlier this month, both Yoo and Okonjo-Iweala have been working behind the scenes to shore up support. Among the bargaining chip they can offer to nations that endorse them is a job for their citizens as one of the four WTO deputy DG.

READ: This is what Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is up against

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Backstory

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Nairametrics had earlier reported that Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjp-Iweala had secured the support of the 55-member African Union to lead the global trade organization. This is in addition to the endorsement from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Caribbean and the Pacific States, bringing the total to about 79 countries that are currently supporting her candidacy.

Nigeria’s former finance minister has positioned herself as an outsider – one who has never worked at the WTO or led a trade deal negotiation. Last week she called for a return to a multilateral system. In a virtual panel discussion on Thursday, she said, “Let’s strengthen that – that is what will serve the world, and let’s do less of the bilateral spats that we see.”

READ: COVID-19: IMF Chief predicts $345 billion financing gap in African countries 

But Okonjo-Iweala is viewed by people familiar with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s thinking, as being too close to pro-trade internationalists in Washington like Robert Zoellick, the former USTR and World BankPresident. Okonjo-Iweala, who served as a Senior Executive under Zoellick at the World Bank from 2007 to 2011, was a candidate to replace him when he stepped down in 2012.

Lighthizer is a longtime WTO skeptic, and people close to him say he would prefer to see a more technocratic candidate like Yoo, South Korea’s Trade Minister and a 25-year veteran who has helped expand her country’s commercial network through bilateral accords with China, the EU, the U.K., and the U.S. He knows the Korean from having worked with her on the renegotiation of a trade agreement early in the Trump administration.

What this means

It appears that there might be a stalemate in the selection of the new head of the WTO as the 2 parties are very critical and important stakeholders in the global trade organization. The US has always played a key role in deciding who leads the WTO; although, in collaboration with most of its European allies.

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