Former Nigerian Finance Minister, Ngozi Okojo-Iweala is set to become the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization  following the withdrawal of South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee from the race

The South Korean Trade Minister ended her campaign to lead the World Trade Organization, leaving former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the likely candidate for the job pending the approval of WTO members

Her withdrawal follows discussions with the U.S. and other major nations and took various issues into account including the need to revitalize the multilateral organization, according to a statement from Korea’s trade ministry on Friday.

“There was no consensus,” Yoo said. “So we needed enough time for in-depth consultations with important members, including the U.S.”

At a time the WTO is struggling to overcome a series of crises that have diminished its role in the international trading system, Yoo’s withdrawal could help thaw the deadlocked race to lead the WTO

Dozens of former U.S. government officials have urged President Joe Biden to endorse Okonjo-Iweala after the Trump administration blocked her selection in 2020, making the U.S. and Korea the only holdouts favoring Yoo. That opposition was enough to halt the selection process because WTO decisions are made on the basis of a consensus of its members.

By quitting the race, Yoo would appear to be clearing Okonjo-Iweala’s path. But as the Biden administration forms its trade team, few clues have emerged publicly about whether it will lift U.S. opposition to Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy. The U.S. mission to the WTO in Geneva didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment.

Okonjo-Iweala congratulated Yoo on her “long campaign” and welcomed South Korea’s commitment to rebuilding and enhancing multilateralism, the Nigerian’s spokeswoman Molly Toomey said in a statement.


“The WTO must turn its focus to the Covid-19 pandemic and global economic recovery,” Toomey said. “Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is eager to focus on the many needed reforms at the WTO.”