ABUJA, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Nigeria is reaching out to the
United States and South Korea to persuade them to back its pick
to head the World Trade Organization, the trade ministry said on
Friday, after the candidate's last-minute rejection threw the
selection process into confusion.
The United States on Wednesday voiced its opposition to
former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The move
came hours after a high-powered WTO panel had recommended her to
lead the global trade watchdog, teeing her up to become its
first African and first woman head.
"Nigeria is currently reaching out to all members of the WTO
including the United States and South Korea to overcome the
impasse as well as persuade the United States to join the
consensus," the trade ministry said in a statement.
A person involved in the leadership race cast doubt on
Nigeria's plans to bring pressure to bear on Washington,
"They can push in the sense that they can get on the phone,
try to mobilize support, but is that going to change the view in
Washington? I think not," the person, who declined to be named
because of the sensitivity of the matter, told Reuters.
The ministry said the WTO's 164 member states were expected
to adopt Okonjo-Iweala as the organization's director-general by
consensus, but the United States was the sole country to oppose
her, flouting the organization's rules.
The U.S. Trade Representative's office has officially backed
the only other remaining candidate, South Korean trade minister
Yoo Myung-hee. In a statement, it called her a successful trade
negotiator with the skills needed to lead the trade body at a
"very difficult time."
Next steps are uncertain, but a WTO spokesman said there was
likely to be "frenzied activity" before a Nov. 9 meeting, less
than a week after the U.S. presidential election, to secure the
required consensus from all 164 member states for Okonjo-Iweala.
(Reporting by Paul Carsten in Abuja, Joe Bavier in Johannesburg
and Emma Farge in Geneva; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Tom