Barely seven months into her four-year tenure as the Director General at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), reports indicates a mounting frustration by Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala with the workings of the organization and has contemplated resigning if no headway can be found on critical issues.
According to Bloomberg, five trade officials, who declined to be identified, reported that Okonjo-Iweala has fully grasped the frustrating reality of the WTO’s historical inertia, and has considered quitting.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the leader of the World Trade Organization, began the year with a plan to score quick negotiating victories that she said would help reboot the dysfunctional Geneva-based trade body.
The report noted that this year, Okonjo-Iweala has repeatedly told ambassadors and staff that she could easily walk away from the job, and reminds them she hasn’t bought any furniture for her temporary home in Geneva, the officials said.
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 is not a credible forum for addressing their shared challenges.
Deep divisions and a lack of trust are not new for the WTO, which requires consensus agreement among all 164 members to finalize multilateral accords.
The WTO’s rigid negotiating structure and disparate interests of its diverse membership have precluded the organization from delivering anything substantial for the better part of the past decade.
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 News that they suspect Okonjo-Iweala wants to run in the 2023 presidential election in her native country of Nigeria.
Okonjo-Iweala didn’t comment about her threats to resign but denied any interest in running for the Nigerian presidency, calling such speculation “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.”
“The idea of Dr. Ngozi stepping down early would be anathema to the business community,” Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce John Denton said in an interview. “We have backed her forward-looking agenda, we want her to commit and maintain that.
“We see no reason why she would even be thinking about ending her term and frankly — she has told us point blank that she is not.”