South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee has withdrawn from the race to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO), Bloomberg has reported.
This means former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is now the only remaining candidate for the top job.
According to Bloomberg, the South Korean trade minister made the decision after discussions with the U.S. and other major stakeholders.
Reports suggest Yoo examined all the issues “comprehensively;” including the need to revitalize the multilateral organization, according to a statement from Korea’s trade ministry on Friday.
Her withdrawal comes after US government officials urged President Joe Biden to endorse Okonjo-Iweala after the Trump administration blocked her selection.
The WTO had to hold off on the entire process last year due to Trump’s opposition, since the WTO always chooses its Director General by consensus.
A panel at the WTO recommended Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the director general’s position today, Wednesday (28 October).
An announcement that she was the new director-general of the World Trade Organization would have been a tremendous boost for Africa. The panel recommendation lines her up for one of the toughest jobs in the international system.
Sources in Geneva say that she had won the support from the vast majority of members, including the European Union, Japan and China, but not the United States, according to the Africa Report.
She will have to lead the charge for a revival of multilateralism in the negotiating chambers of the WTO and for a better deal for developing economies. She will also have to oversee the practical matter of how reforming trade and patent rules can allow the distribution of life-saving vaccines and therapeutics as the second wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic rips across the world.
As the first woman and African to lead the trade body, Okonjo-Iweala has shattered a couple of ceilings at the same time.
She also has a chance to put Africa’s plans to build the world’s biggest free trade area on the top table, pointing to the productive and market opportunities on the continent.
At the same time, she has won the race for the job from hell. That much was clear when her predecessor – Brazil’s Robert Azevêdo – quit the post early after years of frustration with the logjams in negotiation on reforming the WTO.
The negotiations have been made harder still by the eruption of a trade war between the US and China, besides sporadic outbreaks of economic nationalism across the globe.