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The White House Puts a Stop to Having an African WTO Head

The US is blocking the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next head of the World Trade Organization despite the former finance minister of Nigeria winning the overwhelming backing of the WTO’s 164 members, it has emerged. Dr Okonjo-Iweala had moved a step closer to becoming the first woman and the first African to be director of the global trade watchdog after securing the support of a key group of trade ambassadors in Geneva. Soundings taken by a selection panel of three WTO trade ministers found she had far more support than her South Korean rival, Yoo Myung-hee. Sources said Okonjo-Iweala was backed by countries in the Caribbean, Africa, the European Union, China, Japan and Australia. However, her candidacy failed to win the support of Washington, which raised last-minute objections to the process by which the new director general was being picked. An original list of eight candidates, which included the former British international trade secretary Liam Fox, has been whittled down to a final two since the summer. Sources said it was unclear whether Washington’s opposition to Okonjo-Iweala was a deliberate attempt to sabotage an organisation much criticised by Donald Trump.