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EU backs Okonjo-Iweala, Korean contender for WTO top job

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

OBINNA EZUGWU

European Union (EU) governments will support Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee for the World Trade Organization’s to job as the race enters its final month.

Bloomberg understands that EU member-country envoys agreed on Monday in Brussels to endorse Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former finance minister, and Myung-hee, South Korea’s trade chief, in their bids to become WTO director-general, according to an official familiar with the matter.

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Hungary, according to Bloomberg, swung behind the planned recommendation after being the only EU country to withhold support at a lower-level meeting last Friday of officials representing the 27-nation bloc, the person said on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations were confidential.

Yoo Myung-hee

Yoo Myung-hee. Credit: Bloomberg

Five candidates are still in the running to the lead the WTO. It plans to announce two finalists after Oct. 6 and name a winner by Nov. 7.

Brazilian Roberto Azevedo stepped down from the job at the end of August — a year before his term ended. The Geneva-based trade body faces headwinds from the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S.-China trade battle, a hobbled arbitration system and a lack of tools to tackle growing challenges such as industrial subsidies

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