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Okonjo-Iweala: Hearsays about My Interest in Presidency ‘Utterly Ridiculous’


The Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says she is not interested in contesting the 2023 presidential election, describing the speculation as “utterly ridiculous and not true.”

Bloomberg News had yesterday quoted “some Geneva trade officials” as saying that they suspect Okonjo-Iweala wanted to run in the 2023 presidential election in her native country of Nigeria.

This rumoured presidential ambition is coming after an earlier report about the Nigerian former finance minister’s alleged threats to resign as Director General of the WTO.
But yesterday, in a statement to Bloomberg News, Okonjo-Iweala denied any interest in running for the Nigerian presidency.

Earlier, she had reacted to the rumour that she was mulling the possibility of resigning her WTO job barely seven months into her 4 1/2-year term.
She said, “I just got here. I am enjoying what I’m doing. It is a very exciting job and I am trying to have some successes here.”

According to Bloomberg News, the WTO boss began the year with “a plan to score quick negotiating victories that she said would help reboot the dysfunctional Geneva-based trade body;” but she has fully grasped the frustrating reality of the WTO’s historical inertia.

The New York-based medium quoted five trade officials in Geneva who declined to be identified.
This year, Okonjo-Iweala had repeatedly told ambassadors and staff that she could easily walk away from the job, and reminded them she had not bought any furniture for her temporary home in Geneva, the officials said.

An early departure of the WTO’s top trade official would add yet another layer of chaos to an organisation suffering from an existential crisis that may lead governments to conclude the WTO is not a credible forum for addressing their shared challenges, the medium stated.
Deep divisions and a lack of trust are not new for the WTO, which requires consensus agreement among all 164 members to finalise multilateral accords.

The WTO’s rigid negotiating structure and disparate interests of its diverse membership have precluded the organisation from delivering anything substantial for the better part of the past decade.

Last year, Okonjo-Iweala’s predecessor, Roberto Azevedo – cited the lack of progress at the WTO as his primary reason for resigning from the organisation a year before his tenure was scheduled to end.

The true test of Okonjo-Iweala’s leadership will come in November, when she hosts the WTO’s 12th ministerial conference – a gathering of the organisation’s highest decision-making body, Bloomberg states, noting that, to date, WTO members have failed to make significant headway on the three priority areas Okonjo-Iweala identified for potential outcomes at the biennial meeting.

They are: an agreement to curb harmful fishery subsidies; a pledge to reduce trade-distorting agricultural policies; and a framework to expand global trade in vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

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