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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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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.

Chike Olisah is a graduate of accountancy with over 15 years working experience in the financial service sector. He has worked in research and marketing departments of three top commercial banks. Chike is a senior member of the Nairametrics Editorial Team. You may contact him via his email- [email protected]

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. DGA

    October 22, 2020 at 4:57 am

    Fantastic report. Well researched and expertly presented.
    I pray Nigeria/US madam okonjo iweala gets the job.

  2. Abimbola

    October 23, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    Well, top international post like WTO Director General should be given to candidate with the wherewithal considering the past and present antecedents of each candidate pitting side by side.

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Economy & Politics

Recession: Economy should be redirected from wasteful consumption to productivity – Peter Obi

Peter Obi has warned that that the current recession could be worse than that of 2016, because debt raised by the administration was not properly invested.

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Recession: Economy should be redirected from wasteful-consumption to productivity — Peter Obi

Former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, has said that Nigeria needs to trim the unnecessary expenditure on its budget and redirect the economy towards a production-based one. He also warned that that the current recession would be worse than that of 2016, because debt raised by the administration was not properly invested.

Peter Obi disclosed this in a social media statement on Sunday and in an interview with Channels TV.

READ: Afrinvest cautions FG on World Bank’s EoDB ranking

(READ MORE: Nigeria is in a weak financial position to absorb recession shocks —Bismark Rewane)

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“For Nigeria to pull itself out of this economic recession, the 2nd in the last 5 years, there’s a compelling need to cut the pork out of the budget and expenditure at all levels of government and redirect the economy from a wasteful consumption-based one to a productive economy,” he said.

He mentioned in his TV interview that Nigeria should emulate other countries trying to pull out of the economic mess by concentrating on improving monetary and fiscal policies.

READ: NBS hits back at Prof Hanke, says Nigeria’s inflation is not 33%

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READ: Surviving the looming recession in the Nigerian tech space

He said that the October protests were signs that politicians needed to sit up in order to arrest the situation before it gets worse.

“Every other country is discussing the recession and how to pull their people out of poverty. So, what we should do now is concentrate on the monetary and fiscal policies to start pulling people out of poverty.

“If you see what happened with the recent protests, you could see that we are heading into a problem. And I want our energy to be concentrated on that problem. The politicians, the class where I belong, should do more seriously, across party lines, to be able to arrest the situation before it gets out of hand,” he said

(READ MORE: Nigerians pay heavy price as laptop scarcity bites harder)

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He also stated that priority should be on putting food on the table now instead of discussing the 2023 elections.

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“For me, it is in discussing how do we put food on people’s table. Elections will come and we can see how to select the best. But let’s deal with the recession we have just entered before 2023.

“This recession is going to be worst than in 2016 because the monies we borrowed then were not properly invested.

READ: NNPC, only Nigerian company to cut losses by N800 billion in one financial year – GMD

“What we need now is to go into a vigorous regime of formulating implementable and measurable monetary and fiscal policies to drive ourselves out of the present situation,” he said.

What you should know 

Nairametrics reported that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in real terms declined by -3.62% (year-on-year) in Q3 2020, thereby marking a full-blown recession and second consecutive contraction from -6.10% recorded in the previous quarter (Q2 2020).

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Former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, had warned that Nigeria must stop borrowing for anything other than essential needs. He added that very non-essential line items in the proposed 2021 budget must be expunged in a bid to kick-start the economy from a recession.

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Economy & Politics

Recession: Nigeria must stop borrowing for anything other than essential needs – Atiku

Atiku Abubakar has advised the Federal Government to expunge non-essential line items from the proposed 2021 budget.

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Biden should widen the AGOA for integration with the AfCFTA - Atiku, Intels denies NPA statement, Nigerian Ports Authority and Intels, Atiku Abubakar, Atiku claims he has big plans for private sector investment in infrastructure, Coronavirus: Atiku calls for petrol pump price reduction, stamp duty suspension

Former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar has warned that Nigeria Nigeria must stop borrowing for anything other than essential needs, he also added that very non-essential line items in the proposed 2021 budget must be expunged and others in a bid to kick start the economy from a recession.

Atiku disclosed this in a social media statement on Sunday, titled: “We Must Exit This Recession With Precision”.

Atiku said he received confirmation of Nigeria’s slide into recession for the second time in five years with a heavy heart. He urged that the poor economic environment could have been avoided if his ideas of cutting costs of governance were incorporated.

“This could have been avoided had this administration taken heed to patriotic counsel given by myself and other well-meaning Nigerians on cutting the cost of governance, saving for a rainy day, and avoiding profligate borrowing.

“Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already bad situation, however, we could have avoided this fate by a disciplined and prudent management of our economy.

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” It serves no one’s purposes to quarrel after the fact. We must focus on solutions. Nigeria needs critical leadership to guide her back to the path of economic sustainability,” he said.

Atiku warned that Nigeria’s proposed 2021 budget is no longer feasible as the Federal Government does not have the budget to afford heavy luxuries. He, therefore, urged the government to expunge every non-essential line items from the budget.

“We must act now, by taking necessary, and perhaps painful actions. For a start, the proposed 2021 budget presented to the National Assembly on Tuesday, October 8, 2020, is no longer tenable.

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“Nigeria neither has the resources, or the need to implement such a luxury heavy budget. The nation is broke, but not broken. However, if we continue to spend lavishly, even when we do not earn commensurately, we would go from being a broke nation, to being a broken nation.

“As a matter of importance and urgency, every non-essential line item in the proposed 2021 budget must be expunged.

“For the avoidance of doubt, this ought to include estacodes, non-emergency travel, feeding, welfare packages, overseas training, new vehicle purchases, office upgrades, non-salary allowances, etc,” Atiku said.

The former Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate added that the budget must focus on essential items including human development investments and policies that increase the purchasing power of Nigerians.

” Nigeria ought to exclusively focus on making budgetary proposals for essential items, which include reasonable wages and salaries, infrastructural projects, and social services (citizenry’s health, and other human development investments)”

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” Additionally, we have to stimulate the economy, by investing in human development, and increasing the purchasing power of the most vulnerable of our population. Only a well-developed populace can generate enough economic activity for the nation to exit this recession.”

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Atiku called on a monthly stimulus package to poor Nigerians which he adds should be funded not by debt but by adding a 15% tax to luxury purchases.

He said, ” For example, a stimulus package, in the form of monthly cash transfers of ₦5000 to be made to every bank account holder, verified by a Bank Verification Number, whose combined total deposit in the year 2019 was lower than the annual minimum wage.

” How will this be funded? By more profligate borrowing? No. I propose a luxury tax on goods and services that are exclusively accessible only to the super-wealthy. A tax on the ultra wealthy to protect the extremely poor.

“A practical approach to this is to place a 15% tax on all Business and First Class tickets sold to and from Nigeria, on all luxury car imports and sales, on all private jets imports and service charges, on all jewellery imports and sales.”

“And above all, Nigeria must stop borrowing for anything other than essential needs. Again, for the avoidance of doubt, borrowing to pay salaries, or to engage in White Elephant projects, is not an essential need.

“If we keep borrowing, we stand the risk of defaulting, and that will make recession a child’s play because we will lose some of our sovereignty.

What you should know 

Nairametrics reported that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in real terms declined by -3.62% (year-on-year) in Q3 2020, thereby marking a full-blown recession and second consecutive contraction from -6.10% recorded in the previous quarter (Q2 2020).

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Economy & Politics

Nigeria’s economy dips into second recession in 5 years 

NBS data for Q3 2020 shows a dip of 3.62% in real GDP, confirming the Nigerian economy has officially fallen into a second recession in 5 years.

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Nigerian economy and its many problems

The data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) for Q3 2020 shows a dip of 3.62% in real GDP for Nigeria, which strongly confirms that the Nigerian economy has officially fallen into a second recession in 5 (five) years, since 2016, when the economy contracted by 1.62%. 

READ: Boosting IGR; A necessity for states to avoid total dependence on FAAC allocations

The decline in the GDP for Q3 2020 is not unconnected with low activities both at the domestic and international levels which hugely affected the economic growth during the quarter as a result of several lockdown measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic all over the world. 

READ: Honeywell reports N300 million pre-tax profits in Q2 2020

The non-oil sector contributed a huge chunk of the real GDP in Q3 2020 with 91.27%, higher than its share of 90.23% in Q3 2019 and 91.07% in Q2 2020, while the oil sector contributed 8.73%, though a decrease in its contribution of 9.97% in Q3 2019 and 8.93% in Q2 2020. 

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