Okonjo-Iweala Clear For WTO DG As South Korea Withdraws Candidate

February 5, 2021
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The South Korean candidate for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) director-general position, Yoo Myung-hee, has officially withdrawn her candidacy.

The withdrawal comes after dozens of former U.S. government officials urged newly elected 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.

Yoo Myung-hee is South Korea’s trade minister and its candidate for the top job at the WTO following the resignation of Roberto Azevedo.

In November 2020, Washington Trade Daily first reported her withdrawal but it was not officially confirmed.

On October 28, 2020, Okonjo-Iweala had secured the popular vote by a wide margin, but was not named DG because the US opposed her candidacy.

The WTO also said Okonjo-Iweala had the best chance of getting a consensus, After the October 28, 2020 meeting.

The US had said it favoured Yoo over Okonjo-Iweala because WTO is in dire need of reform and must be “led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field”.

Speaking at a press briefing in Seoul, Yoo said, “Due to the prolonged vacancy of the leadership at the WTO, the future of the organization also has become uncertain.

“To speed up the consensus-building among the member countries on selecting a new director-general, I have decided to renounce my candidacy through close cooperation with the United States, our strong ally.

“Washington, which showed strong support for my candidacy, also respects the decision to step down from the race.”

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