The World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters are pictured in Geneva, Switzerland, July 26, 2018. (File photo: Agencies)
Although a World Trade Organization committee selected Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to lead the organization last week, the United States has opposed her candidacy advocating Republic of Korea trade minister Yoo Myunghee for the role.
The organization's Brazilian director-general Roberto Azevedo quit his job on Aug 31, one year before his tenure was due to end, and the initial pool of eight candidates has been whittled down to the current two over two rounds of consultations.
The European Union started supporting Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala after its leaders met in Brussels in mid-September, sending a strong signal it wanted to strengthen the multilateral order, as one EU official told the media.
The US wants the WTO to reform according to its plan, or to paralyze the organization if it cannot be dictated by the US. Neither is acceptable to the EU.
The US and the EU's struggle over the post is a de facto struggle for dominance over the world trade body that exposes the widening fault line in their relations.
The EU's commitment to economic globalization, free trade and multilateralism is unquestionable. While, the US administration is opposed to all the three.
Although their struggle over the WTO will continue, the result is hard to predict.
Other major trade countries such as Japan and those in the Middle East might swing to the US' choice for the WTO new head at the last minute, even if they appear to be closer to the EU side so far.
Although Okonjo-Iweala who would be the first African WTO leader is also a US citizen, the US claims it supports Yoo as someone with hands-on experience of international trade.
It seems that the US administration wants other members to choose whether they are with it or against it. In the meantime, reform of the WTO will continue to be delayed.