The US has suggested that the process to find a new Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) needs to be reopened, in what would be an unprecedented move.
Donald Trump’s trade chief Robert Lighthizer told the BBC that the WTO needs “someone with real experience in trade”.
A consensus still hasn’t been reached.
The doubling down on the rejection of Ms Okonjo-Iweala, despite widespread support from other countries, escalates one of the most pressing global trade issues Joe Biden will have to solve as US President.
The remarks of President Trump’s top official on trade, confirm that there is no way the Trump administration will be persuaded to back the Nigerian ex-finance and foreign affairs minister in its remaining weeks in office.
The other finalist for one of the top jobs in international trade is South Korea’s Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, and the pair have been left in limbo for more than five weeks.
The impasse at the WTO comes at a sensitive time for global trade, which has suffered because of the coronavirus pandemic.
If a new Director-General is not appointed before Joe Biden’s inauguration as US President on 20 January, it is likely the process will be delayed for several months as a new US trade team is put in place.
Mr Biden may also embark on a widespread review of US trade policy, as dozens of industry groups are urging him to do. But he has said he doesn’t plan to immediately remove any of the tariffs Mr Trump imposed on China, and which the WTO has judged to be “inconsistent” with international trade rules.
The WTO has been incapacitated by the Trump administration vetoing the appointment of new judges.
Joe Biden hasn’t given any indication that he prefers either Ms Yoo or Ms Okonjo-Iweala for the WTO’s top job. However when it comes to trade, he recently said: “We need to be aligned with the other democracies.. so that we can set the rules of the road instead of having China and others dictate outcomes.”
“If the Biden administration can trade off support for Ngozi for political capital on other reforms, that certainly seems like a good idea,” Simon Lester, a WTO expert at the Cato Institute in Washington told the BBC.
He added that this would be the quickest way to get a new WTO leader in place, because “opening up the selection process could be messy and complicated, and would lead to delays”