The Financial Times is reporting that the EU will back Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next director-general of the World Trade Organization.
This is considered a big boost for Okonjo-Iweala who is considered as front runner and favourite to clinch the top job.
Ambassadors from the EU’s 27 member states confirmed on Monday that the bloc would throw its weight behind Ms Okonjo-Iweala, following discussions among EU leaders during their summit in Brussels last week.
Ms Okonjo-Iweala, a former finance minister in two governments in Nigeria and former world Bank executive is up against South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee, in the final round of voting at the WTO. The winner is expected to be declared early next month.
An EU official said the decision to back Ms Okonjo-Iweala, who would be the first WTO chief from Africa, was “a strong signal to reinforce the multilateral order”, as well as “a clear signal towards Africa and a sign of mutual trust”.
Policymakers, including Valdis Dombrovskis, EU trade commissioner, Peter Altmaier, German economy minister, and Charles Michel, EU Council president, have sought to forge a common EU stance for the final voting round. The EU itself had decided not to field a candidate of its own.
An EU diplomat said that, during the internal deliberations, Ms Okonjo-Iweala had been backed by France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands, among others. Ms Yoo found considerable support among EU governments in central and eastern Europe, including the Baltic states.
A person briefed on the discussions among ambassadors on Monday said Latvia and Hungary — the last two holdout countries favouring Ms Yoo — agreed to switch and join the majority position at a special meeting convened at 6pm.
Trade diplomats from the EU27 held hearings with both candidates on October 14.
The EU decision leaves Ms Yoo facing an uphill struggle. Japan and China are expected to exercise a de facto veto against her because of political tensions with Seoul.