The World Trade Organisation has postponed a meeting next week where members were to pick a new Director-General, AFP learnt on Friday.
The WTO’s 164 member states had been due to gather on Monday to choose between two Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee.
But the head of the selection committee set up to help with the process told members on Friday that the meeting would need to be postponed.
“It has come to my attention that for reasons including the health situation and current events, delegations will not be in a position to take a formal decision on 9 November,” General Council chair, David Walker, said in a communication seen by AFP.
“I am therefore postponing this meeting until further notice during which period I will continue to undertake consultations with delegations,” he added.
The WTO selection committee, known as the troika, has held months of consultations with members towards finding a replacement for Roberto Azevedo, who in August stepped down as DG, a year ahead of schedule.
After gradually whittling down the initial list of eight candidates, the troika last week tapped Nigeria’s former finance and foreign minister, Okonjo-Iweala, as the one most likely to obtain the needed consensus to take the helm.
But hopes that the final stage would be a simple rubber-stamping exercise were dashed when the United States announced it was intent on backing Myung-hee instead.
The US announcement threw the WTO leadership into uncertainty.
In recent days, many observers have stressed that member states had little chance of agreeing on a new DG as long as Donald Trump, perhaps WTO’s most fervent critic, remains in the White House.