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WTO cancels Nov. 9 meeting to resolve leadership issue…

A delegate arrives before a meeting at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland, October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Reuters . Fri, November 6, 2020, 6:26 PM GMT+1
By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Trade Organization (WTO) has cancelled a meeting on Nov. 9 to decide on the appointment of Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Geneva-based body’s next director general, according to a WTO document seen by Reuters on Friday.

The former Nigerian finance minister was proposed by a WTO nominations committee on Oct. 28, but the United States said it rejected her as a candidate.

“For reasons including the health situation and current events, delegations will not be in a position to take a formal decision on 9 November,” the document said, adding that Monday’s meeting was postponed until further notice.

Geneva implemented COVID restrictions this week including a five-person cap on in-person meetings, although the WTO has held many meetings virtually.

Trade sources said they thought a factor in the delay was that there had been no indication the Trump administration – which will continue to govern trade policy in the weeks ahead irrespective of the U.S. election result – had switched its support to Okonjo-Iweala.

Neither has her rival, the U.S.-backed South Korean candidate Yoo Myung-hee, withdrawn from the race, despite mounting diplomatic pressure.

Okonjo-Iweala, a former finance minister, has vowed “positivity all the way” on her Twitter feed, while the African Union has voiced its full support for her.

“Dr. Ngozi is very grateful for the WTO’s support and she’s ready to get to work as soon as possible,” her spokeswoman Molly Toomey told Reuters.

(Reporting by Emma Farge and Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by David Goodman and Mark Potter)

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