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EU backs Nigerian candidate for WTO leadership - EU official

FILE PHOTO: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala poses outside a Nigerian diplomatic residence in Chambesy, near Geneva, Switzerland, September 29, 2020. REUTERS/Emma Farge

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is backing former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to head the World Trade Organization, sending a signal of trust in Africa, an EU official said on Monday.

Okonjo-Iweala and South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee are vying to be the first female leader in the WTO’s 25-year history, replacing Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, who quit a year earlier than expected at the end of August.

The EU’s support for Okonjo-Iweala is considered a strong signal to reinforce the multilateral order and a sign of mutual trust between the bloc and Africa, the official said.

The WTO faces dual challenges: criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration which froze its appeals body by blocking its appointment of judges, and worsening U.S.-China trade relations.

Okonjo-Iweala, 66, a previous Nigerian foreign minister, is an economist and development specialist serving as board chair of global vaccine alliance Gavi. She wants the WTO to help poorer countries access COVID-19 drugs and vaccines.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Writing by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Richard Chang

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