The World Trade Organization (WTO) has announced that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria) is “best poised to attain consensus” to become its seventh Director-General. The US, however, has indicated it does not support Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy.

Speaking at a Heads of Delegation meeting on 28 October, WTO General Council Chair David Walker (New Zealand) recommended Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment as the next Director-General. He said her candidacy “carried the largest support” by members from all levels of development and all geographic regions – in the final round of consultations as well as throughout the process.

“This was the assessment of the “troika” of facilitators,” Walker stressed, and members need to take a formal decision at a General Council meeting scheduled for 9 November. According to a WTO press release, the US challenged this assessment, indicating it would continue to support Yoo Myung-hee (Republic of Korea) to succeed former Director-General Roberto Azevêdo.

Walker, with Chair of the Dispute Settlement Body Dacio Castillo (Honduras) and Chair of the Trade Policy Review Body Harald Aspelund (Iceland), conducted consultations with members from 19-27 October as part of the third and final stage of the selection process, which aims “to secure a consensus decision by members.”

On 14 May 2020, Roberto Azevêdo (Brazil) announced that he would step down from his post on 31 August. During the first phase of the Director-General selection process, eight countries nominated candidates for the post. The candidates “made themselves known to members” during the second phase of the selection process.

On 31 July, the General Council decided that the third and final phase would consist of three stages of confidential consultations, which would take place over a two-month period, starting on 7 September. During these consultations, the field of candidates was reduced from eight to five and then from five to two

According to the procedures for the Director-General selection process, adopted by WTO members in 2002, the key consideration in determining which candidate is likely to achieve consensus is the “breadth of support” they receive from members. According to the WTO, the 2005 and 2013 Director-General selection processes defined breadth of support as “the distribution of preferences across geographic regions and among the categories of Members generally recognized in WTO provisions,” namely least developed countries (LDCs), developing countries, and developed countries. Walker indicated that based on the General Council’s decisions, “breadth of support means the larger membership.” [WTO Press Release] [Statement by General Council Chair]