Nigeria’s Candidate Wins EU Support for Top World Trade Organization Role

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  • Bloomberg QuickTake: Now published this video item, entitled “Nigeria’s Candidate Wins EU Support for Top World Trade Organization Role” – below is their description.

    The European Union’s 27 members agreed to support Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to be the next director-general of the World Trade Organization. It’s a major coup for Nigeria’s former finance minister who had to compete with a full-throttle lobbying campaign conducted by her opponent, Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea. Yoo reportedly received some diplomatic help from President Moon Jae-in, who personally called more than a dozen world leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to remind them how many jobs South Korea has created abroad. South Korean officials were particularly keen to court nations like the Czech Republic, where Hyundai built a 1 billion-euro ($1.2 billion) automobile factory in 2008. Likewise, the Koreans sought support from Slovakia, where the Kia Motors built a 1 billion-euro plant in 2006. That’s one of the benefits of being a government employee for an Asian trade juggernaut that spends nearly $250 billion a year in outward foreign direct investment — you get to call in favors when it really counts. The high-level outreach helped supercharge Yoo’s self-described underdog candidacy and temporarily swayed more than a handful of Eastern European nations which, as recently as Sunday, were still backing Yoo. But in the end, EU trade ministers on Monday put their differences aside. An EU endorsement can generate more than 27 votes in Geneva given how countries in Europe but outside the bloc such as Norway, Switzerland and aspiring members in the western Balkans (North Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro) tend to follow its lead on such matters. For some Europeans, supporting Okonjo-Iweala could help advance the bloc’s goal of strengthening strategic ties with Africa. For others, her political clout, reform plans, and connections as a veteran of the World Bank and as chair of the Gavi Vaccine Alliance helped tip the scales in favor of her bid to fix the broken organization. Okonjo-Iweala now arrives at the final day of consultations with a strong level of support across Europe, Africa, parts of Latin America and even a few crucial Asia-Pacific nations like Japan. To some, she seems a lock to be the consensus pick come early November when the decision is expected to be made. Until you consider that the world’s two biggest economies aren’t saying publicly yet whether they’ll block her path. “It’s easy to conclude that the curtains may be closing for Yoo,” said Wendy Cutler, a vice president of the Asia Society in Washington. “But there are other important unknowns, including whom the U.S. and China are supporting, to conclude that this race is over.”

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