Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, says she was surprised that President Donald Trump’s administration could stand in her way of leading the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
At a press briefing monitored by DailyTrust, the new Director-General of WTO said she did not see it coming.
She said she felt she had a good understanding with the US government, which interviewed her about the job twice.
“I think I was quite surprised when that came (opposition from Trump) because there was no indication that there was any problem with the US.
“I had two good interviews with the authorities and with the administration, so it was a surprise. But that’s the way life works. When things happen, you take them in your stride and you move on.
“It was wonderful when the Biden/Harris administration broke that logjam. They joined the consensus and gave such a strong endorsement to my candidacy. They joined the other 163 members to endorse my candidacy,” she said.
The United States government had last week announced its endorsement of Mrs Okonjo-Iweala for the top job.
Earlier on Friday, it became clear that Okonjo-Iweala, a former World Bank executive, would clinch the coveted post after her final challenger, South Korean Trade Minister and candidate, Yoo Myung-hee, announced her withdrawal.
Although 163 member countries had elected Okonjo-Iweala in October, the US under Trump was critical of WTO’s global trade handling, saying South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee could reform the body.
The four-month selection process for the next WTO director-general hit a roadblock when Washington said it would continue to back South Korea’s trade minister.
The US had said WTO “must be led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field”.
“Ms Yoo has distinguished herself as a trade expert and has all the skills necessary to be an effective leader of the organisation.
“This is a tough time for the WTO and international trade. There have been no multilateral tariff negotiations in 25 years, the dispute settlement system has gotten out of control, and too few members fulfil basic transparency obligations. The WTO is badly in need of major reform,” said the office of US Trade Representative, which advises Trump.