It is no more news that Okonjo Iweala has the support of majority of the members of the World Trade Organization to emerge as the next Director General, but America opposes her Candidacy. I have also read commentaries alleging that her opposition has to do either with her gender or being a black Nigerian woman. The truth is all that is not the reason why America is opposing her candidacy. Okonjo Iweala nomination is an open field battle on a World pitch of globalization. Two major actors currently fighting and seeking dominance on global trade transactions are two ideological concepts, “Multilateralism vs Bilateralism”
To understand why Okonjo Iweala is opposed, you need to understand why Roberto Azevedo suddenly resigned as WTO Director General barely one year before the end of his tenure. America made his job a living hell because he promoted multilateralism while Trumps administration supports Bilateralism in International trade relations.
America so much frustrated Roberto to the extent that even nominees to fill simple vacancies on appeal panels that rule on trade disputes within the WTO were all blocked by America. Roberto had no option but to resign as Director General.
To my friends in Nigeria who argue that Okonjo Iweala is opposed because she is Nigerian, it is not true. Even if an American had emerged as consensus candidate, but an American that believes and promote Multilateralism rather than Bilateralism, Trumps administration would have opposed such Candidacy.
International trade is guided by ideologies not color. Trade is guided by impersonality. What that means is, in trade relations, during exchange transactions, color or language has no place. To the common man understanding, what that means is that, if you go to market to buy yams, you are guided by price of the yams not the ethnic group of the seller, if the price is right you buy. So get it right, Okonjo Iweala rejection by America has nothing to do with her color, the world trade organization is a marketplace it is guided by price and national interest. The key actors in this market are Geneva, Brussels, London and Wall Street New York. To an extent these actors are profit guided and they are color blind.
Bilateralism is the conduct of international relations and business between two partners without interference from outside forces, while multilateralism is business on a consensus of multiple actors. Again, in the common man understanding, what bilateralism means is that if America is trading or having a dispute with China on trade matters, such relations should be between the two countries, America will not expect her disputes with China to affect her relations with other countries. The question is, Is that possible in the new global village called globalization? Let me leave that answer to students of Political Science and International Relations.
If Trump is reelected, Okonjo Iweala should forget being the substantive DG of the WTO, it cannot happen. But even if Trump loses, which I am definite he will lose, the November 9th meeting will still not favor her. You can see reasons why I have never aligned with Trumps policies. For purposes of disclosure, I have already voted in American presidential elections as an absentee, I voted for Biden.
The final question is this, what can Okonjo Iweala do now to get Americas nod? Her track record with World bank and other international groups, does it present her as a Bilatarist or Multilatarist? Is there any open window or possibility she can still scale through? Well, I am not her adviser, I would have told her what to do and what Nigerian government can do immediately to get Americas nod. Again, I am not her adviser, All I can do is to wish her luck.
Goodluck Madam Iweala, we pray America gets a change of mind. We wish you well.
Princewill Odidi is an International Development Consultant writing from Atlanta USA.