The 27 European Union member states have backed Nigeria’s former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in her bid to become the first African and first female director-general of the World Trade Organisation.
The EU member states are France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
The latest support for Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy brings the number of countries officially endorsing her to 106 out of the 164 states that comprise the WTO.
The 55-member African Union had earlier officially supported the former World Bank director over her sole remaining opponent, Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea.
Okonjo-Iweala had also won the goodwill of a group of Caribbean and Pacific States as well as others from Asia.
The European Parliament endorsed Okonjo-Iweala to head the WTO, saying she is well-equipped. The Parliament had subsequently written the EU to support the Nigerian candidate.
When EU member states convened on Monday, they failed to find a consensus around the choice but the EU representatives reconvened and agreed to back Okonjo-Iweala, according to AFP news agency.
The WTO’s consultation process ends today and the new leader is expected to be named in November but an EU official said the EU will publicly announce its support for the 66-year-old economist today, according to AFP.
The final winner between the two women will replace Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo and former director-general of the 25-year-old trade organisation.
The initial pool of eight candidates for the WTO’s top post, which has been whittled down over two rounds of consultations, had included three Africans – Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya.
The third and final round of consultations seeking to establish consensus around one candidate is due to end today, with the announcement due in early November.
If Okonjo-Iweala is confirmed, she will join the WTO at a difficult time, with the world facing a deep post-coronavirus recession and a crisis of confidence in free trade and globalisation.