Barely seven months into her four-year tenure as the Director-General at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), there are reports that Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala may consider quitting her job at the organization if no headway can be found on critical issues trade officials at the organization have suggested.
According to a report by Bloomberg, she began the year with a plan to score quick negotiating victories that she said would help reboot the dysfunctional Geneva-based trade body.
The officials, who pleaded anonymity, stated that barely seven months into her four-and-a-half term, Okonjo-Iweala had grasped the frustrating reality of the WTO’s historical inertia, and was even floating the idea of resigning.
According to them, she had repeatedly told ambassadors and staff that she could easily walk away from the job and reminded them that she had not bought any furniture for her temporary home in Geneva.
An early departure of the WTO’s top trade official would add yet another layer of chaos to an organization suffering from an existential crisis that may lead governments to conclude the WTO was not a credible forum for addressing their shared challenges.
Last year, Okonjo-Iweala’s predecessor – Roberto Azevedo – cited the lack of progress at the WTO as his primary reason for resigning from the organization a year before his tenure was scheduled to end.
Some Geneva trade officials told Bloomberg that they suspect Okonjo-Iweala wants to run in the 2023 presidential election in her native country of Nigeria.
She has however refuted claims of running for the presidency while she didn’t comment about her threats to resign.
She described such speculation as “utterly ridiculous and not true” in a statement to Bloomberg News.
“I just got here. I am enjoying what I’m doing,” she told Bloomberg News in a television interview. “It is a very exciting job and I am trying to have some successes here,” she was quoted as saying.
Okonjo-Iweala arrived with the qualifications of a political heavyweight. With her background as a former developmental economist, a high-ranking World Bank alumnus and the former director of vaccine alliance GAVI -- she is among the most qualified people to lead the organization’s effort to address the Covid-19 vaccine crisis.
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