All national papers reported that the selection of a new WTO director general is likely to be put off due to the Trump administration’s opposition to the Nigerian candidate, who has commanded support from almost all members, including Japan, China, and the EU. The dailies attributed the U.S. dissent to Beijing’s strong backing of former Nigerian Finance Minister Okonjo-Iwea, speculating that Washington is concerned that the global trade watchdog would promote trade policies favorable to China and other developing nations if the Nigerian candidate assumed its top post. USTR Lighthizer reportedly released a statement on Wednesday voicing support for South Korea trade minister Yoo Myung-hee by saying: “The WTO is badly in need of major reform. It must be led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field.” However, the U.S. official stopped short of specifying the reasons behind Washington’s refusal to endorse the Nigerian candidate.
As the U.S. supports the South Korea candidate and past WTO chiefs have customarily been chosen by unanimous consent from the member states, the papers underscored that the WTO’s plan to select a new director general by early November is unlikely to be realized and that the delay will make the restructuring of the trade watchdog even more difficult.