WTO to appoint Okonjo-Iweala DG next week

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Former Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is set to be appointed as its first female and first African to lead the World Trade Organization next week.

The organisation made this known in a statement titled, ‘WTO General Council to consider the appointment of next Director-General’, on its website on Tuesday.

The global trade body announced that it would hold a special meeting of its General Council on February 15 “to consider the appointment of the next WTO director-general”.

“The WTO’s General Council will hold a special meeting on 15 February at 15:00 Geneva time to consider the appointment of the next Director-General. The meeting will take place in virtual format,” the statement added.

This is coming after that US President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday offered its “strong support” to Okonjo-Iweala to lead WTO, clearing a path for her to become the body’s first female and first African leader.

The move marks another sharp split with former president Donald Trump who paralysed the organisation and opposed the candidacy of the former Nigerian finance minister who was backed by many other countries.

The US Trade Representative in a statement earlier on Friday cited Okonjo-Iweala “wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy” and said she had “proven experience managing a large international organisation”.

USTR also noted that South Korea’s trade minister, Yoo Myung-hee – whom the Trump administration supported – had abandoned her bid to head the WTO earlier Friday.

The process to name a successor for Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down last August, has been deadlocked for months.

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Key WTO ambassadors tapped Okonjo-Iweala back in October as the best pick to lead the organisation, but without US support the process was left at a standstill since the director-general is normally chosen by consensus among all 164 member states.

Nigeria’s first woman finance minister trained as a development economist – she has degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard.

66-year-old Iweala spent a quarter of a century at the World Bank, rising to be managing director and running for the top role in 2012, and is seen as a trailblazer in her home country.

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